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[Opinion] The 1,000th class of the Marine Corps

Posted June. 18, 2005 04:32,   


Jang Ho-jae (22, 997th class), a Marine trainee, gave up his citizenship of Great Britain and Hong Kong and the right of permanent U.S. residence to join the Marines last month. He chose to enlist in the Marines even though the military service is not mandatory for him and the Marines is notorious for its tough training. He said that he wanted “to not forget that he is a proud Korean.” Every class has one to two trainees just like him. The Marines enjoys high popularity among young Koreans. A recent survey indicates that applicants often go through a highly competitive process, with only one out of three to five applicants getting the chance to join the Navy. Also, 47 percent of the trainees were reported to have failed more than once before they managed to become a member of the Marines.

What makes the Marines so popular in a time when military evasion has become rampant? The first and foremost reason is the strong bonds among fellow Marines. The strong ties are demonstrated in many of their unique slogans such as “Once a Marine, Always a Marine” and “If anyone can be a Marine, I would never have chosen to be a Marine.” Some cite the reason as the young generation’s desire to find their identity in the Marines’ unique and attractive style characterized by an octagonal cap, a red nametag and “spiky” hair.

But what is more important is their sense of fulfillment and pride. Some Marines say that they reinvented themselves through the service, which implies that the Marines gave them an opportunity to strengthen their mental power. Once they are discharged from the military service, some Marines can overcome difficulties with patience and endurance that they have built. This can be a great lesson for young people who try to dodge the military service if possible, as joining the Marines offers the opportunity to gain great assets and pride which can help them support themselves throughout life in exchange for 24 months of military service.

On June 21, the Marines will welcome its 1000th class of recruits. And three days later, June 24 will see the commission ceremony of officer trainees of the 100th class. These events are two great occasions to commemorate the 56-year history of the Marines since its foundation on April 15, 1949. 630,000 privates and 200,000 officers are estimated to have been trained as Marines. They have all reinvented themselves to become stronger Koreans while being in the Marines, “a melting pot.” I wish all of them and the Marine Corps continued success.

Song Moon-hong, Editorial writer, songmh@donga.com