from the Korean Army to being published

the blog of an "ex-patriot" writer in Korea

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This will be the last post on this blog. I’ve started a new blog,, and I’ll be posting there from now on. For everyone who has followed this blog in the past five years, thank you.

Written by Young

March 7, 2015 at 8:00 pm

Entry #66: The Book Is Out (Finally)

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It’s been 10 years since I first thought of writing this book and five years since I started writing the earliest draft of the manuscript (and writing in this blog), and I’ve finally stopped dragging my feet and (self-)published the book.

The official title is The Accidental Citizen-Soldier under my real name (Young Chun) and it is being sold for $2.99 on as a Kindle edition.*

front cover3

A link to the Amazon page:

I’ve never been good at self-promotion and I dread giving interviews so it’s going to be tough to market the book (which is one of the reasons why I didn’t want to self-publish), but I’ll have to get started.

If you enjoy the book, please take some time to write a customer review. It’s one way to get more exposure on Amazon.

Although I’m still not satisfied with the book and wanted to do another complete re-write, I admit that it feels great to finally have it completed and on the (electronic) bookshelf. Now I can finally focus on my novels, which is what I really wanted to write all along.

On another note, I’ll be spending most of this week in the hospital as I’m finally getting the metal taken out of my leg. It’s been a year since my fifth and last surgery, and once the metal is taken out, hopefully I’ll be able to start recovering to the point that I can run again.

Here’s to hoping that 2015 will be a good year.

* I’ve also signed up with Amazon’s print service CreateSpace, so printed copies will eventually be available, but due to the number of pages in the printed version (over 400), it’s really expensive ($11.99) and I don’t expect anyone to pay that price for the book.

Written by Young

March 1, 2015 at 9:02 pm

Random #74: News for the New Year

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It’s a new year, and while I don’t like attaching special meaning to the passing of time, I do have some news. Not good news. Just news, plain and simple. The first item is that I’ve decided to abandon the agent search and to self-publish. I realize that I still haven’t reached a level in the quality of my writing that I’m satisfied with and don’t think that I’ll be able to get there by being stubborn and completely re-writing the manuscript for the third time. I’m tired of working on it. In three weeks, it will be the ninth anniversary of my discharge and eleventh anniversary of my induction and almost ten years since I started typing up the earliest notes for this book, and I think that’s enough. The book is what it will be, and I’m fine with that. I really want to focus on my novels, and hopefully focusing on something I actually want to write will help me to grow as a writer.

The second item is related to the first. I will be quitting this blog sometime this year. I won’t shut it down, but once the book is e-published, I will only update it if there are any developments with the publishing, something I’m not really expecting. This blog was started for generating interest in this book, and I feel like it has recently strayed from its original purpose.

My name is not Holden Beck. I chose this ridiculous pseudonym to hint to the readers that I was “holding back” certain things in the book (at least I intended to at the beginning). Not that I was trying to hide any embarrassing stories or to stifle my emotions. Holding back one’s emotions is not conducive to writing and any lack of emotion in the book is only due to a flaw in my own character. I originally meant to withhold information related to my estranged father, primarily because he asked me not to publish this book so as not to damage his reputation. Even using my real name would cause him to lose face because there are people around him who know that his second son was forced into the Korean Army. I do leave out some of the things that happened between me and my father during that period but only because it has no bearing on the story being told. A lot of my experiences have been cut from the latest draft for the sake of readability. There are still times I worry how interesting a read it is because those two years were supremely boring years.

Anyway, the publishing is still a way off. I just finished another round of edits and hope to finish it in the next coming months. I still have to design a cover and figure out exactly how to self-publish. Hopefully, the announcement of the publishing of the book online won’t be too far off, but I’ve broken too many self-imposed deadlines to make any declarations. I will update again once I make some progress.

Written by Young

January 10, 2015 at 9:57 pm

Help Jyoung-Ah Fight Desmoid

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I’m not an activist in any sense. I assume that a requisite for being an activist is to be active. I feel very strongly about things, but that’s about it. I’d like to argue my inactivity is due to a personality defect rather than indifference, but it’s most probably an ungodly mixture of the two. That being said, I’m devoting this post not to informing you of my progress with the book (or lack thereof) but to appeal to whoever happens upon this blog on behalf of my friend, Jyoung-Ah.

I first met Jyoung-Ah in 2003, my first year in Korea. I’ve known her almost 12 years now, and although I don’t see her as often as I used to, she has always been there for me.

She was there for me when I found out I had to go to the Korean Army. She took me out every week and aided me in my quest for oblivion and forgetfulness in the form of shots of 151. A majority of those nights involved me spewing the entire contents of my stomach all over Seoul, once in a pot of food she was offering me in her then-boyfriend’s kitchen. Every night, she was there, patting my back as I hugged the porcelain, and every week, she was there, willing to go through it all again.

She was there when I came out for my first furlough, 100 days in, and she was one of the few people to visit me during my two years, once taking the trek to Daegu while I was a lowly private and once to Ansan, where I was training for my deployment to Afghanistan. The day after I was discharged, I was kicked out of the place I was staying and she let me sleep on her couch until I left for America. And when I came back from America, she again let me sleep on her couch until I could find a place of my own near school.

After I went to grad school, we drifted apart. It was my fault. I’m not a very good friend. I’ve never been good at keeping in touch with my friends. I’m quiet and sedentary and I prefer to keep to myself. But I’d like to believe that my relationships with my friends don’t hinge on frequency, that we can pick up where we left off regardless of how much time has passed. And it’s true with Jyoung-Ah. While I was laid out in the hospital because of the accident, she came to visit me when she could, she came to visit even though she was dealing with her own shit. She had had surgery to remove a strange tumor around her shoulder and was having minor surgeries in between visits.

Unfortunately, the tumor has recurred and has been identified as a desmoid tumor, something that only affects two to four people out of a million people. It is incurable. She is planning to return to Texas for treatment, but because of her extended stay in Korea, she is ineligible for medical benefits from the government.

Now she is in need of help, and this is the only way I know how to be there for her. If even just one of you can find it in your heart to donate even a few dollars to support her treatment, I’d be grateful. You can learn more about Jyoung-Ah and her disease as well as how to donate at

[Edit] For those of you in the US: Happy Thanksgiving. I celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday by eating two Whoppers. I’ll be having Thanksgiving dinner with my family on Sunday, though. Thankfully, there are places in Itaewon that offer turkey dinners for Thanksgiving.

For those of you in Korea: If you don’t feel like donating money without any return but you do enjoy alcohol, there will be a fundraiser for Jyoung-ah at Divine in Itaewon tomorrow (Saturday, November 29th). The doors open at 7 and there will be live performances and DJs later in the night. Part of the receipts will go to Jyoung-ah.

Written by Young

November 26, 2014 at 10:00 pm

Rejection #7: First of Round Three

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I’ve started my agent search once again–my third attempt after yet another major re-write. I spent my time at the coffee shop last week in sending out query after query, and early this morning, at 3:42 am, I was roused from my slumber by the annoying, tinny alert on my phone indicating that I got an e-mail. Through bleary eyes, I read my first rejection of this round.

Dear Holden,

Many thanks for querying me with THE ACCIDENTAL CITIZEN SOLDIER. This certainly sounds like an interesting premise for a memoir, but I’m sorry to say it’s not quite right for my list at this time. I appreciate your trying me though and hope you find the right home for your work very soon.

My best, [agent name]
Oh well. I’ve broken the seal for this round, and the one thing I am grateful for is that at least they replied promptly. Rejections don’t get me down; I expect to be rejected by most agents. I’ve queried somewhere between 30-40 agents so far, and there has been some interest along the way. It’s a long road ahead (I’m not even halfway there according to this article), but it’s the road I’ve chosen. And if nothing happens by the end of the year, I will probably take a detour and go the self-publishing route on this one.

Random #73: Easily Distracted

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I’m not much of a closer. The deck on my balcony needs to be re-stained and the screws need to be replaced. A couple of the bolts on my bike need to be drilled out and replaced and parts of the frame need to be treated for rust. Several art projects are still just ideas swimming around in my head but never put down on paper. Numerous blog entries are half-written on my computer. I have the numbers of a couple of girls who I can’t be bothered to contact despite finding them more than mildly attractive.

I have a tendency to be somewhat of a perfectionist, obsessing over the smallest detail and spending hours and days and weeks on a single project, but I have an equal tendency to suddenly abandon the same project and never to revisit it. There’s a word in Korean that’s absent in English that can properly describe how I am most of the time, daechungjueui, which means that I’m guided by the principle of doing things just adequately enough, as in, “Eh. That’s good enough.”

Much of it is due to sloth. My room is a pigsty. I throw garbage in the general vicinity of the trashcan, even if I happen to be standing next to it. I can’t figure out why I can’t take the extra five seconds to hang up a jacket instead of tossing it on the ground right next to my dresser. My room would never be clean if there weren’t occasions where I thought there was a remote possibility of bringing a girl back to my place. More than a few flings have felt the need to clean my room and even my bathroom while I was deep in post-coital slumber.

The rest of it is due to distraction. I’m absentminded and forgetful, debilitatingly so. I can think of something that I need to do all day long, but an errant thought can block out the thought completely. I can set an alarm on my phone and write notes on my hand and still not remember until it’s too late. I can focus really well but only on one thing at a time, and the moment something new pops into my head, all of my attention moves over to that new thing.

I think that this forgetfulness is a defense mechanism. If I had a better memory, I’d probably be completely incapacitated, mired in depression and regret over a lifetime of waste and horridly stupid mistakes. The fact that I’ve been working on this book for so many years can be attributed to this fault of mine but is also a testament to how bad I want this. Remembering events that happened now ten years ago in detail is painstaking and time-consuming, and I’m constantly struggling for the right words. I know they exist but they haven’t been on the tip of my tongue for years.

That being said, I’ve finally finished the revisions on my first six chapters that I’ve been struggling with since the accident. Now I just need to push myself a little longer to start and get through the agent search once again.

Random #72: Back on the Bike

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I’ve started riding again. The first time I took the bike out after the accident was actually a couple of months ago, but I haven’t ridden much since then. The problem is that I have nerve damage in my left leg and I couldn’t raise my foot to change gears. I took the bike out to my mechanic and I was in first gear the entire time.

In the months since, I’ve regained very little strength but it’s enough now that I can change gears by tightening my ankle and lifting with my leg. It’s not ideal, but it’s manageable. I don’t know if I’ll ever regain enough function to change gears normally but I’m learning to deal with it. (The doctor who administered my nerve exam told me that the nerves might recover some day but he was very noncommittal.)

This bike isn’t the bike I was riding when I got into the accident. That bike was totaled, which saddens me because it was a beautiful bike. My current bike is the same make and model but it’s like buying the same breed of dog after your previous dog has died. It’s just not the same.


The bike I was riding when I got in the accident/the aftermath (I don’t know where the red paint on the fender came from but all that damage on the gas tank and covers is where my leg was)

I bought this bike while I was still hospitalized. I still had a cast on my leg and had to use my crutches to make it to Suwon to take a look at it. It wasn’t smart—I normally would never buy a bike unless I could take it out on a test ride—but this strong desire to get back on a bike clouded my judgment. After the cast came off, I was going to jump on the bike and ride off into the sunset. Of course, that didn’t happen.

Some of my friends think I’m crazy to be riding again. They don’t understand because they don’t ride. There’s just something about being on a motorcycle. There is a freedom of movement, the visceral experience of the speed, the leaning into turns. Traffic is not an issue. You don’t have to worry about the asshole in the next lane letting you in. The road is yours for the taking and the cars are only obstacles to make the course more interesting.

If anything, the accident has made me even more determined to ride and to follow through with my plan to complete the cross-country trip I wasn’t able to finish in 2006. This bike was previously owned by a college kid with awful taste and a lack of concern for maintenance so I’ve been working on it over the past couple weeks, taking it apart, repairing or replacing worn or rusty parts, re-doing the wiring, and getting it painted. If I hadn’t been the same kid with awful taste and a lack of concern for maintenance back then, maybe I would’ve been able to make it all the way to Seattle.


Before and after pictures of my new bike (It doesn’t look like I did much but he welded a lot of the stuff on and fucked with the wiring so he could put on these tacky LEDs)

Not that I’m completely unaffected by my accident, but I’ve never been one to let a bad experience control my life. If I did, I’d be a very bored and boring person. I have sensed that I tighten up slightly when I ride through the intersection where the accident happened, that intersection—it’s an intersection I pass through daily—but it only serves to make me more cautious of the ever-present assholes who run red lights with abandon.

Today, instead of taking the bike to Nakseongdae, where I usually write, I took it all the way to Gangnam. I’m now sitting in a coffee shop, on the second floor, next to the window with a full view of my bike. It’s sitting there pretty on the street, beckoning me to take her out again.

I’m at the coffee shop trying to get back on the bike again with my writing. It’s September, the summer has come and gone, and I’m still working on these first six chapters, but I’m hoping that I’ll be able to turn that around soon.