This is just what a South Korean man studying computer engineering at Harvard University has done. Hong Chan-eui, 21, enlisted in the Korean Marine Corps and was at the completion ceremony for trainees in Pohang, North Gyeongsang Province, on Nov. 30.
The decision may seem strange for a person who scored a perfect 2,400 in SAT and earned full scholarship from the world-class university.
Despite his parents questioning his voluntary enlistment in August, Hong rejected serving as an interpreter or alternative service in other professional positions physically less demanding than training as a Marine. Instead, after four months of training, he will be stationed with the 2nd division in Gimpo, Gyeonggi Province, performing information and communication duties.
“Harvard was my first lifetime goal and the Marine Corps my second,” Hong said, proudly displaying a red name tag ― the force’s signature color ― on the left of his camouflage uniform.
Arriving in South Korea in August, he spent months doing push-ups and jogging to get fit. “For me, the Marine Corps is more valuable than Harvard,” he said.
Hong may not have attained his second lifetime goal of spending 21 grueling months with the Marines if it were not for North Korea’s unexpected bombardment of Yeonpyeong Island in November 2010. When he saw a South Korean soldier responding with a K-9 Thunder self-propelled 155mm howitzer, it inspired him.
Seven years later, Hong has achieved his resolution to “become a South Korean marine hell-bent on achieving his missions to protect the country, just like the heroes from the Battle of Yeonpyeong.”