Commentary

Pro Patria

Imagine the Korean War repeating itself but this time with nuclear missiles and automatic attack drones. On January 17, 2009, the fragile truce between the two Koreas was almost shattered. Now I am left wondering if another war is entirely out of the question. North Korea threatened to take a “strong military retaliatory step” against its Southern counterpart. A uniformed military officer surrounded by military unit flags called South Korea’s president a traitor.South Korea immediately placed its armed forces on alert and has been carefully monitoring North Korean troop movements since. Although no shots have been fired nor any missiles launched, this incident is as serious to me as war. If a conflict were to break out on the Korean Peninsula, I would be compelled to help my country in any way. I would even be willing to commit myself to military service. Politically speaking, I’m not even Korean. I was born in Edison, New Jersey, and I have an American passport. In fact, when I visit Korea, I need to apply for a visa. Yet I don’t consider myself to be American at all. I was born in this country, but I moved out of the United States when I was three years old. I don’t identify myself as a citizen of the United States. My passport might be American, but my blood isn’t. I am Korean, and my country is Korea. My legal status as an American prevents me from attending the two-year military service all “Korean” men must attend. This service is treated as a rite of passage. A Korean boy becomes a real man by sacrificing some of his life in service of his country. While I am attending college or graduate school in America, my Korean-born friends will be in the midst of basic military training, spending two years of their lives preparing for war. If a war were to break out, my friends would be on the frontlines, and I would be sitting in a classroom halfway across the world. I would not be able to fight for what I consider to be my country. My passport can’t tell me that I can’t love another country, my birthplace can’t tell me my ethnicity and my citizenship can’t tell me who I am. Just because I wasn’t born in Korea doesn’t mean that I wasn’t born a Korean. If North Korea and South Korea were to go to war, I would sign myself up for military service without hesitation. I know that if I signed up for the Korean Armed Forces, my American citizenship would be revoked. So what? If there is a law preventing me from fighting for my country, I would give up my American passport. A war between the two Koreas would threaten the lives of my family and friends in Korea. No piece of paper endorsed by the United States Government can prevent me from fighting to defend those I love. I’m not saying these words to just sound heroic or courageous; a war is no joking matter. If I were to be sent to the frontlines of a conflict, I know there would be a chance that I would come back in a casket. Is this not what I am taught to do? Phillips Academy prides itself on its motto, non sibi — not for oneself. Sacrifice is part of that mantra. The values of this institution helped me make my decision. If it weren’t for non sibi, I might be satisfied to watch a battle tear my country apart on television. Michael Yoon is a three-year Upper and Associate Commentary Editor from Hong Kong. myoon@andover.edu