This photo shows Bang Hyung-sik (top) and Tae-hyun on duty. (Republic of Korea Army)
Trying to remain true to their roots, two Korean brothers from Argentina made headlines here for joining the military three months ago, despite holding permanent residencies in the South American country, a story which was shared by the National Unification Advisory Council.
“Even though I’m a foreign permanent resident, I’m proud of being Korean. I definitely thought I needed to serve the military duty to be honorable,” 30-year-old Bang Hyung-sik, the older of the two, was quoted as saying.
His brother Tae-hyun agreed. “I want to be acknowledged as a man of the Republic of Korea. How will I be able to honor Taegeukgi (Korea’s national flag) that I very much hold dear to, if I have not fulfilled the military duty?”
The Bang brothers left for Argentina with their family in 1998 and have lived there since, dreaming of becoming a musician and an actor.
Hyung-sik has served as a safety and administrative clerk and Tae-hyun as a squad leader in boot camp since last March.
The brothers said they are gaining something more than Korean pride.
“I realized that all the hardships and failures I face here in the army are helpful to my life,” added older Bang.
All able-bodied Korean men are required to serve in the military for about two years since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a ceasefire and the Korean Peninsula technically remains at war.
The Military Manpower Administration began allowing Korean natives with permanent residencies overseas to volunteer for the military service from 2004. More than 1,000 have since served their military terms through the system as of early this year.
By Lee Hyun-jeong (firstname.lastname@example.org