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Marine applicants on the rise after North Korea attack

January saw the highest ever competition ratio of young men applying to be enlisted in the Marine Corps, according to a report submitted to a lawmaker by the Military Manpower Administration on Sunday.

The number of applicants for the Marine Corps for January was 4,553. The competition ratio of 4.5 to 1 is the highest since the MMA began tallying the number of applicants for the Marine Corps in 2008.

The ratio has grown since November 2010, with December’s competition ratio at 3.6 to 1, higher than the monthly average of 2.1 to 1.

South Korean actor Hyun Bin also said that he would join the Marines in March, further reflecting the growing popularity of the Marine Corps.

The actor’s decision to join the Marines comes after uncovering of celebrities and politicians who have been accused of “draft dodging.”

“I am touched to see that young men with national pride are not hesitant to join the Marine Corps even after the Yeonpyeong incident,” said Rep. Song Young-sun of the Future Hope Alliance.

“I was able to see that our young men have the mindset to challenge themselves and are far from weak,” said the opposition lawmaker who received the data.

The North’s bombardment on Yeonpyeong near the tense West Sea border on Nov. 23 killed two civilians and two marines, marking the first time a civilian area on the South’s territory was shelled since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

The attack sparked public outrage in South Korea, and experts say the deadly incident has changed perceptions about North Korea among young people here, who tend to be more sympathetic toward Pyongyang than the older generations.

In South Korea, all able-bodied men must serve in the Marines for around 21 months as an integral part of the South’s defense against the North.

By Robert Lee (