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Archive for the ‘Golden Fishery’ Category

Episode 226 

Date 2011.04.06

We begin this episode with KTW’s reputation as being a devil in the recording studio.  While KTW seems like a sweet guy, there’s a reason why the entire lineup for the band Boohwal has constantly changed through the years.  KTW acknowledges his hardheadedness and jokes that Park Wan Gyu (the band’s singer back during their “Lonely Nights” promotions) was insanely skinny back then because of the stress KTW gave him.  KTW has tried to soften his image recently and when the band was recording “Never Ending Story” with Lee Seung Chul, KTW let the Lee sing in whatever way he wanted.

Interestingly, the song “Never Ending Story” was the song that made KTW’s father acknowledge his son’s talents.  For decades, KTW only sought his dad’s approval but every time the band it #1, his dad reasoned that it wasn’t because of KTW’s musical abilities but because of xyz.  KTW again readily states that without Lee Seung Chul, the song would have never been as successful but truthfully Lee wouldn’t be where he is today without Boowhal either.  KTW thinks that their destinies are woven together and the drama they’ve experienced is the catalyst for beautiful music.   Anyways, when KTW won that year’s best songwriter award, his dad finally told KTW that he did well and KTW finally got the approval he was seeking.

KTW’s had many close encounters with death.  His first “rebirth” occurred at the beach.  He and a friend were swimming in shallow waters when the two began walking deeper and deeper in to the ocean.  It didn’t occur to them that they had fallen into a rip current and suddenly neither could touch the bottom.  They began to panic but if you’ve ever seen Bondi Rescue, you know there’s no way to swim against a rip current at that age.  (BTW why are all the Koreans who get rescued on Bondi Beach so embarrassing!).

The two began to drown and one of them got the great idea to swim under and hold the other up to get the attention of nearby swimmers.  The two took turns doing this until someone came and rescued them.  While every scoffs at the story, KTW swears that its true and till this day, he and his friend argue as to who had the idea and went under first .

In another story of near death, in 2005 doctors found a mass in his liver.  KTW thought that this was the end for him and made arrangements to metaphorically close up shop down to selling his car.  During this point he wrote the song “Beautiful Reality” for the movie “Eraser in my Head”…and then doctors told him he had been misdiagnosed.  I know it’s not  funny to think you’re dying but dude, of all the people it could happen to it had to be him.  LOL.

In 2009 he actually did have a health scare and had to lose 7kg and quit drinking.  In in 2011, he was diagnosed with cancer during the taping of Qualifications of Men.  The first thing he thought about was his wife and children.  He worried about how they would support themselves and felt extremely sorry to them for that.  At first he hid the truth from his wife but eventually told her about his cancer, which didn’t surprise her.  If anyone’s gone through more drama than KTW is his wife.  She’s stood by him during his stint at the mental institution, suicide attempts, near death experiences, and drug addiction.  To KTW, she’s the only person in the world that he’s afraid of.

She’s the reason I live and even if I tried, it would take more than my entire lifetime to repay her for everything she’s done for me.

Going back to his life as a variety show star, in 2008 he was invited to appear on Radio Star by his friend Kim Gura.  Kim is like the equivalent of Perez Hilton circa 2008.  Vicious yet hilariously true.  KTW talked about UFO’s and bragged about how awesome he was at the guitar only to fail miserably during the recording.  That show boosted him to stardom.  For 20 years KTW had been trying to made Boohwal a household name and all it took was one appearance on a tv show.

KTW’s popularity is so high that if you search “Kim Tae” on a portal the automatic results show “Kim Tae Won” at #1 and not Kim Tae Hee (a very popular actress).  Again the host calls bull on him but KTW replies with a caveat that it happens occasionally.  Jokingly, the host Kang Ho Dong does the same thing with his name except when he types “Kang” the first result will always be “Kang Ah Gee” aka Puppies.  Dude puppies are freaking powerful weapons of mass destruction.

While he originally hated the nickname deeming him the nation’s grandmother, he now enjoys showing both his variety and rock sides.  It makes him seem mysterious and tells the audience that if you want to keep a person’s interest, keep a lot of secrets.  Secrets are a great thing because the fact that only you know something gives you a spark in your eyes and makes people wonder about you. Uh, secrets also ruin families and create 16 episode misunderstandings in kdramas but okay.

In a hotly watched episode of Qualifications of Men called Harmony, the hosts were trained by the musical great Park Kollen to perform in a choir competition.  The final episode showed the entire cast along with several recruits performing Nella Fantasia and a cartoon melody to a huge standing ovation.  KTW was originally pissed off a Kollen because she never seemed to pay attention to him.  Regardless of how bad he was she just let him slide while Kollen reamed into the others.  I guess this was her reverse psychology at work because lol at KTW being mad that a teacher wasn’t scolding him.

On MBC’s The Great Birth Star Audition, KTW says that while looks are important in the entertainment industry, he was looking to give those who had been looked over because of their lack of visual prowess a chance at stardom.  For him, what’s important is not whether they win the entire competition but that these kids will have careers that last decades.  Preach my brother.  There are so many “one hit wonders” in music and its sad to see “has beens” trying to make it in the game when all they ever did in the game was provide a flash in the pants.

KTW says he can immediately tell who a person is when they walk into the audition.  Their life stories are written on their faces.  The second thing he notices are the singer’s left hand.  When they sing he can tell if they crave the stage or fear it by how they use their left hand.  So for those who are planning to audition for season 2 of the show, 1) don’t put your hand inside your pocket, and 2) if you put both your hands on your mic you’re terrified and you better be ready to be called out on it.

KTW’s daughter who is now in her teens is already growing her musician roots and KTW says to expect her one day showing up at an audition with her acoustic guitar.  Of course she might end up auditioning for Superstar K (a competing audition program starring Lee Seung Chul) to which KTW replies it’d be a great thing and jokingly implies that KTW might have to call Lee for support.  Finally the last advice KTW gives to aspiring singers is to throw away your prejudices about music.  Rock can join rap can join pop, etc and there’s no right or wrong.  Music is universal so go ahead and listen to everything the world’s got to offer.

For the songwriter, KTW tells the audience that the day after Kim Jaeji died in 1993, he began to write.  Everyday, regardless whether it was sensible or not, KTW would write in his journal and now has numerous volumes of illegible handwriting.  While KTW says that someone had previously stolen his work and therefore writes in a way he can only decipher, KTW seems to be unable to read some of his own writing. Some of the journals thoughts are simple memos like “when you’re thoughtlessly staring out a window and your friend wonders what is on you’re mind.”  and while these things are simply, its a big help to him in his writing.

Finally, the guru closes the show with a solution to KTW’s problems.  How is he going to keep all those promises?  The Guru answers that KTW already promised the audience by telling them everything on this show.  He’s stuck.  So if anyone ever sees KTW smoking, alert the show immediately!

And the consequences of breaking these promises:  1) take off the sunglasses, 2) cut his hair, 3) Make KTW call Lee Seung Chul “Hyung.”  Classic.

Episode 225 

Date 2011.03.30

Kim Tae Won is the leader and guitarist for one of Korea’s longest running bands called Boohwal aka “Rebirth.”  During the past 20 years KTW endured several personal and professional hardships including an addiction to drugs, a stint at a psychological institution, the sudden death of one of its band members and surviving cancer.  Through it all KTW managed to keep the band alive, wrote some of Korea’s best rock ballads and became famous as “the nation’s grandmother.”

While KTW’s songs were famous and Lee Seung Chul (original singer for Boohwal) was famous, the general public had no idea who this guy was.  That changed two years ago when he was invited to the sister program for Golden Fishery called Radio Star.  I’ve never seen that episode but from what I hear the audience loved his eccentric personality.  He began to appear on several variety programs and eventually became known as the nation’s grandmother.  Yes grandmother.  If you look at him from the back it’s pretty self explanatory.  KTW even did a commercial poking fun of his feminine side.

Yet even with his rising fame KTW pointed out the fact that the producers of this show never invited him until he announced his battle with cancer.  I love that about KTW.  He’s so honest but does it in such a self deprecating manner that its not depressing or offensive but funny.

KTW does a weekly show called “Qualifications of Men” and in one episode, each member of the show did a health check with the results to be revealed in the following week.  The main MC of Qualifications of Men along with the producer met KTW after a music program and gave him the bad news.  KTW felt like someone had hit him over the head with a hammer yet put on a brave face.  In February of 2011, he let the Qualifications of Men cameras follow him through his diagnosis and subsequent surgery and as of the airing of this episode, Kim had been given a clean bill of health.

And in the spirit of rock, three days after his surgery, KTW was back on tour with his band.  Interestingly there are a lot of criticisms toward Kim and his band saying Boohwal isn’t rock but ballad.  KTW who is also famous for his lyrical almost romantic words replied “we’re not rock.  we’re music.”

The guru wants to know why he’s come on the show and KTW says that he’s made so many promises to himself that he doesn’t know how to keep them all.  He’s always kept his promises.  Back in middle school, he promised he’d never swear and til this day, he hasn’t used a single curse word.  Amazing considering my mornings usually start out with “omg I’m going to fucking kill that alarm.”

KTW believes that things like swearing became boring after discovering the guitar.  Again he tries to be romantic.  He tells the group that the first chord he played was A minor.  It was so sad and melancholy that it drew him in.  The guru’s sidekick gently plays Am but then calls Kim out saying its the first chord to the Golden Fishery theme song which is everything but sad.

Also in 2009, he promised to quit drinking and to this day he’s never had another drop of alcohol.  He doesn’t even dream about it.  Again, diametrically opposed to me who dreams of soju and makgulli on a daily basis.  The one thing that KTW hasn’t been able to promise himself is to quit smoking.   KTW started smoking in his first year of high school and he knows its bad for him but he hasn’t been able to get himself to quit just yet.

After the general introduction a brief biography is laid out for KTW.  KTW was born April 12, 1965 as the youngest son of five children.  During his teens, he was known as one of the three guitar legends of Korea and in the 80’s he started a band called The End.  The band broke up before its debut but it lead to the introduction of KTW to Lee Seung Chul who became the band’s singer and shot them to stardom with the song “Heeyah.”  During the third album Lee left the group and Kim Jaegi was recruited as the replacement but he died in a tragic car accident while recording their third album.

Kim Jaegi’s brother Kim Jaehee was asked to sing for the band and the album was one of its most successful selling a million copies.  Subsequent singers and songs later the band was reunited with their original singer Lee Seung Chul in 2002, presenting the world with the great “Never Ending Story.”  However Lee again left the group and the band fell into another low, that is until KTW appeared on Radio Star which lead to several other TV shows, commercials and gigs.

Going back to KTW’s childhood, he revealed that his grandfather was extremely rich but due to some bad investments his family lost everything.  During elementary school, KTW became the school outcast and was not only harrassed by the students but by the teachers, who would hit him mercilessly for minor infractions.  He was so scarred that to this day he hates even the smell of the pencils.  But because of his experiences, he readily identifies with what society deems are the “outcasts” and “losers” and has given him an interesting perspective on life.

KTW says that the only reason he endured those rough times was because of his father.  As the youngest son, he was deeply attached to his father and would wait in anticipation each night for the sound of his father coughing as he entered the house, carrying a small snack for him.  Even to this day, that emotional memory lulls him to sleep.

The reason why KTW first learned the guitar was to show off.  His middle school class president was not only smart and good looking but also a guitar player.  Wanting some attention, KTW criticized the guy’s guitar skills and bragged that he could play songs by Led Zeppelin.  Realizing that the students would eventually call his bluff, KTW went home and tried to learn Led Zeppelin’s “Baby I’m Gonna Leave You” by ear.  Six months later he was hooked and once he touched the electric guitar and he never looked back.

Its a testament to his talent that this self taught guitar player would become a legend in the field.  KTW actually tried to take guitar lessons at one point in his life but soon realized he was learning at the faster rate than the teachers were comfortable teaching.  He says that all his life he searched for a genius mentor, someone like Doc Brown from Back to the Future leading Michael J. Fox on great adventures.  He realized no such person existed.  Instead he would have to become the Doc Brown so that another kid wouldn’t feel the disappointment he had felt.

As evidenced above, KTW is insanely passionate about the guitar.  He once took his 1965 Fender Stratocaster and sawed off the sides wondering what sound it would make.  After ruining three guitars he realized sawing parts off an electric guitar was a bad idea.  Yeah, I’d say he’s a guitar equivalent of crazy professor Brown.

Rehashing some history, KTW talks about how he started writing.  In 1985, KTW’s band Boohwal entered a competition against Shinawe (a now legendary Korean rock band).  Everything from the quality of Shinawe’s instruments to their physical appearance were impeccable and even as a 19 year old KTW knew the only way he’d be going to compete was to become a songwriter.

Speaking of looks, Lee Seung Chul was definitely the face of the group back in the 80’s.  The band actually opposed the addition of Lee but KTW fought hard for him because he had a great vibrato.  Of course the more famous and successful songs do feature Lee which goes to show KTW definitely has an ear for music.  After Lee left the group, KTW fell into addiction which haunted his music and personal life for several years.  During that time, he wrote a song for his girlfriend, now wife called Reminiscence III found on Boohwal’s second album.  That song and album bombed on the charts yet when Lee Seung Chul remade the song for his solo and called it “The Last Concert” it became an instant hit.  This made KTW even more miserable as if it affirmed for him his failure as a musician and he considered breaking up the band.

Eventually KTW met Kim Jaegi.  KTW he had never seen someone with the vocal abilities of Kim Jaegi and the only person who compared was Lee Sora.  So from the depths of KTW’s depression and addiction, he found a glimpse of hope in Kim and began to write and compose for Boohwal’s third album  While the song “사랑할수록” aka “As I Love” sold a million records, it was recorded in one session as Kim unfortunately died in a tragic car accident shortly afterwards.

Several years later, Lee Seung Chul approached KTW to do a reunion concert.  As part of their contract, KTW was commissioned to write a new song for the group.  However months passed and KTW continued to fight with writers block.  Most people are under the impression that his wife and children left him during this time and moved to Canada.  However, KTW tells the guru that this isn’t true.

As several news outlets reported after this show, KTW’s 11 year old son is autistic.  There is a huge stigma attached to mental and emotional problems in Korea and KTW’s wife left the country not because of her husband or because she was ashamed of her son but because the country and its people had emotionally scarred her and their child.

Its heartbreaking as KTW tells the guru and the entire country this story.  While he says that their family is extremely happy, his wife and children continue to live outside of Korea because of the hurt they feel from people.  He knows that there are so many children who are facing the same struggles as his son and he hopes that by revealing this secret, he can perhaps change people’s perceptions of autism.

KTW’s life story and the story behind Boohwal was recently portrayed in a mini drama called “Rock Rock Rock” starring Noh Min Woo.  KTW’s story is filled with a lot of heartache and emotional turmoil.  Not only was he addicted to drugs, he tried to commit suicide, he got swindled, his work was stolen, etc.  That’s a lot for a 47 year old to go through but maybe that’s why his songs are so good.

Yoo Hee Yeol’s Sketchbook recently had the band perform and the band invited several of Boohwal’s past singers.  Its interesting to see how different each singer sang the same song and if you can, its definitely worth watching.

Episode 210 (Part 2)

Date 2010.12.08

This episode starts with the guru asking Choo about his famous baseball playing uncle Park Chung Tae.  Park is one of the more famous players out of Busan City and played for the Lotte Giants for 18 years before becoming a coach for its minor league team.  Choo really looked up to his uncle and began playing baseball because of him.  (He’d be my favorite uncle too if I could parade him around to my friends and make myself king of the neighborhood).

While Choo began playing ball in the 3rd grade, his father began training him since he was a baby.  Choo tells the guru that his father never held him and at 100 days old, his dad would make him hold his dad’s thumbs and hang from them as exercise.  I smell an urban legend worthy of snopes.  His dad is however legendary for his training methods.  They called his dad’s tactics worthy of Silmido, a movie based on the true story of a secret military group trained using brutal and inhuman methods to infiltrate the north.

In high school, Choo met his coach Cho Sun Oak.  This guy made his father look nice and forced Choo and his teammates to train day and night with tires on his back, making them run immediately after meals.  For three years, Choo never had a single day of rest.  All that training must have payed off because he lead his team to the 2000 national little league championships.

Choo really respected his coach and in November of 2010, Choo came back to Korea to pay respects to him.  At the columbarium, there were several videos of Choo crying and being comforted by his father.

He’s not around now but he really loved baseball…even if he had a bit of money, he’d use it to buy snacks for us and treated us all like our sons.  Calling him my second father isn’t enough to express how I feel about him.  And just as things were looking good for him, he ended up dying.   I felt like I didn’t do anything for him and I cried a lot because of that.  So I took my gold medal and went to give my respects to him.

In 2001, he was drafted by the Seattle Mariners.  One of the scouts was a close friend of his coach and even though other teams were scouting him, he ended up choosing the Mariners because they showed more interest in him.  It was a difficult transition for him.  He only knew the alphabet and had to have a translator.  It was frustrating for Choo since he wasn’t able to communicate with anyone, couldn’t understand anything on the tv  and didn’t have any friends.  At a fast food restaurant all he could ever order was a “Number 1.”  The cashier would ask him what he wanted to drink and he’d answer “Number 1.”  To go and to say?  “Number 1!”  Regardless of the question, the only thing Choo could say was “Number 1.”  After two years he decided to get rid of his translator and learn the language.

It was actually his minor league teammates that helped him improve his language skills.  When they would go to a restaurant, they would order for him but the next time around, he’d have to order for himself and the entire table.  Because of their help, his English improved dramatically.

During his time in the minors, the coaches wanted him to switch from a pitcher to a batter.  They saw that he had the makings of a 5-tool player (possessing the talent to hit for power and average, being an above average defender, and having above average arm strength and above average speed. thanks wiki) and wanted to take advantage of that.

Choo readily agreed and practiced days and night catching, fielding, and batting.  While he agreed to change positions there were many times he questioned his decision.  It was a struggle for him.  He was being paid $500/two weeks and had to room with 7-8 guys to make ends meet.  While he was in Seattle, he missed his girlfriend (now his wife) so much that he convinced her to fly to the states and live with him, two of his teammates, and their girlfriends in a two bedroom apartment.

Choo met his wife in 2003, while in Korea.  A buddy of his convinced him to come meet some girls but he wasn’t feeling the vibe and fell asleep on a couch.  When he woke up he said (not my words) “I thought an angel had passed by.”  From that moment he knew he had be with her and for the next two months the two were inseparable.  From dusk to dawn, the two spent every minute together which obviously did not sit well with the girl’s father.  Eventually Choo was called to his girlfriend’s home where Choo made a bold request to her father.

In a month I’m going to have to leave for America and I want to spend every minute I have left with her.  Would it be okay for her to stay with me?

Imagine being her dad.  Choo wasn’t even asking for her hand in marriage.  He just wanted her to stay with him for the remaining month he had left in Korea.  But her dad was cool about the whole thing and let her stay with Choo for the remainder of that time.  Choo was 21 (20 in American age) and to pull that off at such a young age was so smooth that the guru jokes “wow you’re a player” to which Choo responds “baseball player.”

And in an moment of saccharine love, Choo says that even if he was born again he’d marry her and from the moment he could crawl he’d find his way to her.  Eventually the two married and had two lovely children.  However, they’ve never had a wedding and Choo hopes that he can have two.  One in Korea and another on the baseball field in front of the home crowd.

Getting back to baseball, in 2006 Choo got his chance to play in the majors.  But because he played the same position as Ichiro, there really wasn’t any opportunities for him to play.  No matter how well he did there was no way the team would bench Ichiro for him.  So he was sent back to the minors and subsequently traded to the Indians.

Before he accepted the trade, he asked whether he would be playing in the majors and the Indians promised he would.  The first game that he played as an Indians was ironically against the Mariners, the same team that let him go.  Choo didn’t care if he sucked for the remainder of his time as an Indian but he just wanted to make sure that he did well that day.  He ended up hitting a home run and winning the game for the team 1-0.

He spent most of the first season with the Indians recovering from Tommy John surgery and playing in the minors.  He contemplated coming back to Korea because it was such a struggle for him.  He talked to his wife about leaving but she eventually convinced him to stay in the States.  Good thing he listened to his wife because he moved on to become one of Cleveland’s biggest stars.

One of the more interesting facts I learned from Choo was that there is a huge difference between the minors and majors.  In the majors, everyone waits on you hand and foot.  Things are done faster, more efficiently and with better service.  In the major leagues even if you don’t play, you’re paid $1,500 for that day.  That’s more than what he was getting paid a month as a minor league player.

Another difference is the food.  There are several leagues in baseball.  Rookie league, single A, double A, triple A, and the major leagues.  As a rookie, you get two rows of sliced bread, peanut butter and jelly.  In single A you get grape jelly too.  Once you make it to double A you get some meat like chicken.  In triple A there’s steak.  But in the majors, its a buffet.  A sushi station, every kind of jam you can imagine, levels of hot sauce and the meat melts in your mouth.  I imagine that’s why players strive even more to get to the majors.

Also, when traveling in the minor leagues they all have to ride buses whether its 2 hours or 15 hours.  In the majors, the workers fold your uniforms perfectly and pack your bags for you.  The players get ready to leave while the bags leave separately for the plane.  You then take a bus not to the airport but to the front door of the plane.  Inside, everyone gets three seats for themselves and while us peons would have to turn off our phones and put our seatbelts on, the players get up to drink, play cards and relax.

However, there are differences even between the majors.  The Yankees are known to have a huge locker room and every locker has their own safe and computer.  Choo admitted he was jealous of the swag, especially the fact that there are electrical outlets.  For some reason he seemed to be obsessed with finding outlets for his laptop.

As one the older more seasoned members, Choo now gets the best locker and has the younger players coming to him for advice which gives him a sense of pride.  Also when he sees American fans holding up signs written in Korean he feels a sense of responsibility to play even harder and better.  One of his dreams is that even after he retires, people will remember him as a hard worker.  Someone who tried their hardest at everything.  If people remember him that way, he thinks he’ll have no regrets once he leaves the game.

Finally the interview comes to an end and the guru gives him some advice:

Being a father your son can be proud of is also being a good dad.  Work hard and make him and Korea proud.

Commentary

The interview was around an hour and a half long but considering the amount of editing that took place, I’m sure the actual interview was longer.  I’m curious as to what they left out.  I actually followed Choo when he first debuted as an Indian but lost track after he went to the minors.

I didn’t know much about him but for some pictures of him and his wife.  At first I thought they were the typical snotty Seoul couple but I was way off the mark.  They seem pretty down to earth and the fact that he has a Busan accent (which is like having a southern accent) makes him even more adorable.

And yes he really does seem to adore his wife THAT much.  http://youtu.be/4bDnTuaLze0

Episode 209 (Part 1)

Date 2010.12.01

Golden Fishery is a two part talk show.  Part one is called “Mu ru pak Dosa” aka the Knee Drop Guru.  The guru Kang Ho Dong is a former Korean Wrestling champion who successfully crossed over into the entertainment world.

Every week a well known Korean figure is invited to the show and addresses a problem or wish they have in their lives.  Its like Oprah, if Oprah was a 200 pound Korean man with red stickers on his cheeks.  Part two is a different show called “Radio Star” where singers come and get grilled by several douchebag-like hosts (this part won’t be recapped).

The guru begins the show by telling Choo how hard it was to book him.  The producers had invited Choo to the show a year ago but at the time, Choo replied that he would attend after the Asian Games.

Immediately after Korea won the 2010 Asian Games, one of the producers tried to call him but his phone, his managers phone and all his handlers phones were unavailable.

As a hail mary, the producer obtained an American phone number for Choo and tried calling.  Choo picked up and for ten minutes straight the producer tried to convince Choo to come.  He answered with one sentence:  “Talk to my manager” and hung up.  Talk about persistence.

After the initial introduction and small talk, the guru gets down to business and asks Choo to reveal his worries.

Many people think I live a worry free life but because I am so busy playing baseball I feel like I’m not a good husband, good father, or good son…unless I quit, it would be hard.

Choo has two sons who at the time of taping were age 7 (6 in American age) and age 15-months.  They live in Arizona while he plays baseball in Cleveland.  The season is seven months long and if there is spring camp, that’s another 2 months so there isn’t any time to be with his family.

The guru points out that as a new father himself, even if he’s gone for two days its a bit awkward and wonders if its the same considering Choo is gone for several months.  Choo says that its not but he feels that his son must really miss him because when he comes home, his son constantly cries.  As a boy he grew up watching and learning from his dad but the fact that he can’t do the same for his children is hard for him.

Also, people at school think his wife is a single mom and guys are giving their numbers to her thinking she’s available.  Apparently his wife looks young for her age (both Choo and his wife are born in 1982) and even when she’s with him, teenagers come up to her and flirt.  So Choo’s always telling her to have the kids with her when she goes out (lol).

What bothers Choo the most about being away is that his son is too mature and is more responsible than a kid his age should be.  His son is always taking care of his mom, protecting her, making sure everything is alright when he’s only 7 years old. Yet when Choo comes home, his son becomes attached and constantly cries.  Choo believes that its because he isn’t at home and feels a lot of guilt because of it.

Also, because Choo isn’t always there for his kids, he tends to spoil his son by buying him every toy in the toy store to the ire of his wife.  I’m sure Choo is just glad if his 15 month old even recognizes who he is.

The guru then changes subjects to the 2010 Asian Games in China.  The guru wonders whether Choo began to feel nervous considering the Games were extremely important to Choo.

In Korea, all able bodied men must enlist in the army and serve for approximately 2 years.  However, the Korean government will waive service for certain athletes.  Winning gold for Korea in the Olympics, Asian Games, etc guarantees a waiver.

Since Choo was an able bodied Korean man, he had to either quit baseball and enlist  or obtain American citizenship to continue playing baseball in America.

Draft dodging in Korea is highly frowned upon and Choo would have been a national pariah if he had chosen the latter.  Moreover the Korean laws have changed in recent years and even if Choo had obtained his American citizenship, if he stepped foot into Korea, the Korean government had authority to detain him and force him to serve the two years.  Therefore he would have been for all intensive purposes banned from Korea.

Choo says that during the Games, he wasn’t nervous or burdened at all.  He just felt like everything was going to go well, that whatever they threw at him he’d be able to hit.  In fact, he was more nervous running the bases than coming up to bat.

One of the more interesting things during the Games was the conditions some of the countries were playing in.  The Mongolians had literally one baseball bat, the Pakistanis were sharing spikes, and the starstruck players and coaches from Hong Kong were taking videos and pictures of him during the game.  Choo understands how they feel because he was in their position at one point in his life and because of his past he tries to appreciate what he has now.

The guru then made fun of him for striking out against pitchers who were throwing at high school speeds.  Isn’t he a major league player?  Choo tried to defend himself by saying he’s used to fast pitches and that it was strange trying to time the slower ones.  (Excuses excuses lol).

When asked about Choo’s pitching abilities (he was a pitcher in high school), he says that he threw at 153km, around 95mph.  No one believes a high school kid could throw at 153km and Choo clarifies that he threw 153km around three times but his average was bit lower.

After a small break the guru begins to ask him some tougher questions.  There were rumors that Choo would have gotten his American citizenship if he had failed to get gold.  Choo admits that he really did think about it.  For the longest time, every interview he did, every time he had a meeting with his team, all hey wanted to know was whether he was going to enlist or get his citizenship.

It was extremely stressful for Choo.  All he had done for twenty years was play baseball.  Not only that, Choo had found his stride and was producing great numbers .  Any runner can tell you two weeks let alone two years without training can hinder their performance.  For an athlete to give up two years is basically career suicide.

However in the end, Choo believed that leaving Korea that way would be a disgrace and that he would never be able to face his parents or hold his head high for his sons.  Good thing for Choo, he never had to choose.

Part 2 of the interview coming soon…



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