from the Korean Army to being published

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

Entry #23: Why Did You Have to Go?

with 6 comments

I would say that the revision of my second chapter (Lesson One: Always Be Prepared) is at about 80 percent, at a level I feel is almost acceptable so that I can start sending out queries to agents. While most of the agencies I have researched require only the first 5 pages or so of a manuscript for submission, it seems common that they request anywhere from the first 30 to 100 pages if the submission has piqued their interest. My first two chapters account for about 40 pages at this point.

Before revising, the second chapter was one of the most problematic, poorly written, and incoherent of the twelve chapters in the book. What was more problematic is that the second chapter answers the most frequently asked question addressed to me regarding my two years in the Korean Army: “Why did you have to go?”*

I hate being asked the question, not only because it is asked to the point where I want to dig my combat boots out of the closet and hang myself with the bootstrings** but because it is not a question I can answer fully without an uninterrupted span of I’m guessing about half an hour. This is not to mention the resulting endless fount of insanely exasperating follow-up questions, questions for clarification, and tangential questions about Korea, myself, and feelings.

“This is crazy but I’m having feelings again. Like some kind of fourteen-year-old kid or something. I mean, you remember feelings, right?”
– Dennis, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

If I’m tired, I answer “I had dual citizenship but didn’t know it” and try to maintain the most perturbed expression I can manage to implicitly convey that that’s that. I’m rarely not tired and in the off chance that I’m not, the question has an odd lifeforce-draining effect, so even though the above answer is completely insufficient in explaining the odd run of unfortunate coincidences that led to my conscription, I could give a rat’s ass.

My aversion for explanation is one of the earliest motivations for writing this story. Toward the beginning of ordeal, I had entertained the thought of writing out the answer on a piece of paper so that I could hand that to the inquisitor rather than waste my time explaining, kind of like a deaf-mute who has a pre-written card ready to explain his handicap. It might have been the only motivation for me to write this book initially.

This is the closest thing I could find on the Internet. Looks like it could be my book cover, at least after some editing, “Pay any price you wish” and the stuff about God in particular.

Once the book is published, I can simply tell enquiring minds to fuck off and buy the book.***

* Another frequently asked question that will cause me to immediately hate a person I have just met is: “How was it?” It’s similar in nature to the question I address in Entry #15: Was It Really That Bad?

** I do realize that I overuse this image (suicide by bootstrings) but only because it is an integral part of the experience that is the Korean Army. I’m still unsure about my stance concerning suicide—I just can’t seem to get through Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus—but anyone concerned about my repeated use of this image can rest assured that I would never resort to this method lest the police happen across my dangling, lifeless body and assume that I had been trying to pull a David Carradine.

*** Oprah, this does not apply to you. I am a very pleasant person in person. Usually.


Written by Young

September 30, 2010 at 2:48 pm

6 Responses

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  1. Your hanging yourself reminded me of our discussion about all the shitty stuff that happens in the army. Here is the link for that story of the marine colonel who sexually assaulted his driver 4 times.


    September 30, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    • Fuck. And it’s widely believed that being an unjeonbyeong is a comfortable position. Nothing comfortable about that.

      It just goes to show how the Army fucks with your rational mind. No one in their right mind would wait until the fourth time to report that kind of shit.

      “Although I refused, because the officer said, ‘It’s an order. Stay still,’ I couldn’t do anything about it.”

      What kind of rationale is that?


      September 30, 2010 at 5:58 pm

  2. If you want stories about sexual harrassment in the ROK military, I hear them all the time during my Div Commander’s morning situation report. There are even guys who harrass a subordinate officer’s teenage daughter, and generals who grope female officers/NCOs. The worst I’ve personally witnessed was during a church service (which makes it all the more amusing). A senior conscript of another unit was sucking the earlobes of two other conscripts in front of him. Instead of clocking the disgusting faggot, they smiled very uncomfortably.

    Holden, it’s a Korean rationale that’s been drilled into these guys since they are able to understand words. Submission and unquestioning obedience are the core curriculum of Korean eudcation. You probably know all of this already though. Many Koreans perceive (or at least that’s how they justify their time of slavery) that conscription is the pinnacle of manhood; its where you learn how to be a man and grow-up. Funny how being a man means being someone’s bitch. It gets confusing for me because I was taught in America to stand up for myself. I’ve heard stories of the “old” Army where guys had to suck their superior’s cock or forced to literally eat a turd. That’s Korean masculinity for you. If that shit (no pun intended) happened to me I would be in prison right now for sending a dude to the ER.

    BTW, It’s always Sunny in Philadelphia is my favorite TV show.


    October 3, 2010 at 10:35 am

    • It says a lot about society when the pinnacle of one’s manhood is “being someone’s bitch” and getting your ears sucked on.

      In that case, I’m glad I was stationed at an army headquarters. (There was no tolerance for any shady business.) People can look down at me for doing my two years at a “comfortable” place. I don’t have to be a “real man” if that’s what that means.


      October 4, 2010 at 9:54 pm

  3. That feelings line was by far the best line from the gets married episode


    October 5, 2010 at 4:53 pm

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