Elwood 5566

Military Service Terminates Rain

Posted in Comparative by 노강호 on October 13, 2011

Rain, 29 going on 20

‘Rain,’ one of Korea’s most successful pop artists who has an international reputation. I remember him back in 2002 when he won a ‘new artist’ award. Actually, he received numerous awards in 2002 but the one I recall was was when he started crying on stage.  Rain (29), whose real name is Jung Ji-Hoon, had another little blab on Sunday when he gave his final concert before commencing his two year period of compulsory military service. Only yesterday, a student told me that her dad considers ‘real men’ those who have completed their military duty. Of course, in Korea, the category ‘real men’ is laced with the enchanting addition of ‘feely-touchy’ campness which wouldn’t be out of place in any ‘Carry-On’ movie,  And of course, Korean soldiers, just as easily as they can hold hands with their buddy, can cry as is often witnessed on Korean TV programs which elicit the weepies of both audience and participants by bringing parents into barracks unexpectedly.  One of my first memories of downtown Daegu was seeing a squad of riot police marching towards a demonstration in double-file, holding hands. I bet those lads could have had a little cry, unashamedly.

Rain’s fans outside the boot-camp he is to attend

Having served for almost fifteen years in the British Army,  in a capacity the least demanding of masculine attributes, I was a musician, I rarely saw soldiers crying and a display of the weepies, especially in public and  in all but the most warranted circumstances, was not ‘manly.’  The qualities of masculinity most cherished by British ‘squaddies’ were the ability to brawl and consume vast amounts of alcohol. The idea of a British military base being alcohol-free, or forbidding soldiers to drink alcohol, rules Korean conscripts are often subject to, is almost as outrageous as providing them a garrison gay club.

do I notice a slight sense of trepidation?

I am quite fascinated by the social leveling that takes place when the rich and famous are compelled into military service though I’m sure they often manage to wheedle themselves privileges. Looking at some of the obnoxious British celebrities who misbehave, openly abuse use drink and drugs, aren’t particularly intelligent and often have inflated egos, a dose of conscription would be socially beneficial. Kate Moss for example, appeared on the front pages of British newspapers several years ago, snorting cocaine  (Daily Mirror 15.09.2005). Most alarmingly, her crime, if anything served to increase her financial worth. The late Amy Winehouse‘s musical talents were are as famous as her infamous drug and alcohol binges none of which diminished her influence or earning power. Meanwhile, in Korea, MBC and KBS TV stations have banned 36 celebrities, 12 of them for drug related offenses. It would seem in Britain and the USA bad behaviour are lucrative investments which only in exceptional cases, one of which kiddy fiddling, terminate a celebrity’s career.

Rain in concert

I’m told Rain’s boot-camp, where he will endure 8 weeks basic training, is notorious for its Spartan facilities but I nonetheless wonder what privileges his position can earn. This far, fame and wealth have done nothing to thwart his impeding period of conscription and usually any attempt to circumnavigate military duty can terminate a celebrities career at the extreme or at the least ostracize it to China or Taiwan. Prior to his departure for the boot-camp, Rain gave a series of concerts culminating last weekend in a free street concert in Seoul. I find something totally healthy in the idea that a celebrity can be forced to join the ranks and contemplating the potential intrigues this poses is infinitely more entertaining than watching a bunch of  Western celebs on one of the numerous celebrity obsessed reality shows.

farewell salute to his fans


How far does his manager go with him before they say goodbye?

At what point is he finally alone?

Will he share a dormitory room or get a private bunk?

Will he have a bodyguard if he goes off base at any point?

Will he be whisked away by limousine on his first leave?

Who will be his his dormitory buddies?

Creative Commons License

© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.


One Response

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  1. wetcasements said, on October 13, 2011 at 8:41 am

    We talked about Private Rain in my conversation class last night.

    Apparently entertainers like him will go through a grueling basic training but afterwards he’ll probably do performances for his fellow troops (we call it U.S.O. in America, so it’s the Korean equivalent of that).

    Still pretty interesting. You’d have to go back a ways to Elvis Presley for the last time a big-time celeb. joined the US armed forces. In Korea it happens every few months.

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