How One American Citizen Was Forcibly Drafted Into the South Korean Army
Illinois-born Young Chun thought a stint teaching English in Korea would be a quick and easy way to pay off his mounting post-college debt. He could not have been more wrong.
Illustrations by Danielle Chenette
Young Chun looked at the letter dumbly. It was all in highly formal Korean, a language he barely understood. But there was no mistaking the second sheet of paper contained in the envelope that had arrived at his apartment that morning. It was a notice from the Department of Justice, written in both English and Korean. The young American, offspring of naturalized Korean immigrants, was barred from leaving South Korea.
Overcome with dread, Chun now knew what the first letter meant. It was his draft notice for South Korea’s mandatory military service.
“It’s scary, and the same time it’s like, there’s no way this is true,” Chun says twelve years later, remembering the moment in 2003 that would seal his fate as an American citizen forcibly drafted into the South Korean military.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Chun had only come to the country with the plan of teaching English for a year, a seemingly easy way of making a dent in his mounting credit card de…