from the Korean Army to being published

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

Entry #47: A Change of Scenery

with 4 comments

When I first started at my current job five years ago, I would use the copious amounts of vacation time and all of what little I earned to travel around Asia. Japan, China, and Thailand were my most frequent destinations but I tried to make a full round of Southeast Asia. I still haven’t made it to Laos or Indonesia but hope to one day.

The reason I stopped was because I always left Korea with my laptop in my carry-on and plans to work on the book while basking in the sun and drinking on the beach but ended up never turning on the computer. In the last three years, aside from a couple of visits home to Seattle or a weekend or two to Japan to see my buddy Taka, I haven’t really left Korea, spending my vacations in day-long sessions at the coffee shop. The baton was passed on to my younger brother Jason, who’s probably in Kota Kinabalu right now taking tourists out for scuba lessons.

I’m finally lifting my travel ban next week and getting on a plane to Honolulu to see my grad school drinking buddies Sang and Annie and to take a long needed vacation. Progress on this third section has been sluggish but I should have a rough draft by the time I leave on Thursday. The primary reason for the slow progress has been psychological. My editor’s comments on my last section have been causing me to think too much and alcohol and breaks from writing haven’t been helping like they used to. I think it’s time for a change in scenery, if only for two weeks, so I can recharge for my fourth and final section.

Coincidentally, the book is divided into sections based on changes in scenery. The first section takes place in Jeungpyeong, at the recruit training center at the 37th Division. The second is at my permanent station in Daegu at SROKA headquarters. The section I’m finishing up now follows my time in Ansan, Seongnam, and Kyrgyzstan on my way to a six-month deployment in Afghanistan, and the final section relates my final stretch back in Daegu.

When I was a private in Daegu, I desperately longed for a change in scenery. Army life is supremely frustrating and tedious and I hated my time at the Second Army. I initially applied for a transfer to a unit at the Joint Security Area on the front lines but it fell through. Soon after, I applied and secured a position on the Afghanistan deployment. Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like had I been successful in transferring to the JSA. Would my story have been more or less interesting? Physical discipline is much harsher at the front; I once read a report of a bayonet stabbing for some minor infraction. In the summer of 2005, a conscript went on a killing spree at the front, throwing a grenade in the barracks where the other conscripts were sleeping and shooting them where they lay.

Not having really travelled in a while, I’m looking forward to the trip, to getting drunk on non-Korean alcohol during the nights and sleeping off my hangovers on the beach during the days. I’ll be taking my laptop along just in case it doesn’t take the entire trip to get the creativity flowing again. A little more than two and a half months left until my self-imposed deadline for a first draft…

Picture courtesy of Annie


Written by Young

June 8, 2012 at 5:53 pm

4 Responses

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  1. Whaddya mean, drinking buddies. We are teetotalers.

  2. Hello! I’ve been assigned to the 37th division training center as well this upcoming September. I’m not very fluent in Korean either. Do you have any advice on going into the army? And perhaps maybe you can tell us about the process of getting deployed? I’ve looked into it and I’ve been told that it’s a very competitive process. Do you have any tips or any skills I should obtain in the next few months to raise my chances? I speak both English and French if that helps with becoming a UN Peacekeeper…


    June 1, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    • What’s your story? Are you an American who is voluntarily joining for the sake of gaining Korean citizenship? I hear that’s becoming somewhat common these days (although I can’t say I fully understand). When do you start?

      If you’re not fluent in Korean, my first piece of advice is to study Korean as much as possible beforehand, and I would practice speaking in the most formal register as much as possible (-ㅂ니다, -ㅂ니까?).

      As for getting deployed, when I was in the Army, the major deployments were to Iraq and Afghanistan and it wasn’t part of a UN mission. French won’t matter but your English and Korean will. It wasn’t so competitive back then because most of the applicants weren’t very fluent in English.

      If you have any other questions or would like more detailed information, feel free to ask. You can also send an email to Good luck.


      June 3, 2014 at 12:54 pm

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