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.At intervals, Lee reappeared to ensure compliance with his order before darting out of the room again.After more than ten minutes of agony, Lee returned again, this time to stay. It was time to learn about guard duty — a task for which one unlucky recruit was denied sleep so he could watch a doorway in the middle of the night, at a barracks in the middle of the empty Korean countryside.As he caught his breath, Chun realized that, even by the unforgiving standards of the Korean military, he hadn’t brought this punishment upon himself.Being there was out of his control, but so was the environment inside.“What else was there for a guy stuck in a dead-end job, slowly being crushed under the weight of credit card debt and school loans, but to run away to a foreign country to teach young, impressionable children? It was only when Chun went to apply for a visa open to ethnic Korean foreigners that he discovered he was a South Korean citizen.In the end, Chun became a victim of a collision between unforgiving bureaucracy and the meddling of an unknown family member thousands of miles away.
He rounded a corner, and finally saw why: immigration inspection.“I kind of knew right away that it meant doom, you know?” There was nothing to do but return to Seoul and end his brief career as an American soldier.“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. 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 debt.Unbeknownst to him, Chun was a dual Korean citizen. It was as an American that Chun was drawn to the idea of teaching English for a year in South Korea.