Guys like him [fiction for students]

Guys like him don’t usually do so well in military service. He know this but he can’t avoid going. He has to go. There is no escaping  it. He is Korean and every Korean man has to go. He just wants to get drunk and forget that a week from now he will be on base. In the barracks. His secret will be locked away. He knows foreigners joke about the supposedly common phrase, “There are no gays in Korea.” But he knows there are, in fact, gays in Korea. He works at a bar and serves them drinks as well as anju they don’t want 5 nights a week. He is thankful his fellow Koreans don’t usually have good gadar. He  thinks he might be able to keep his secret during his 17 months of military service. He thinks he can hide it and is sure nobody will find out or figure it out. He is even more sure that he won’t tell anyone. Vowing silently to himself not to share his secret, he fakes a smile with the customers and does a bit of aegyo. He will miss the money and the freedom but he won’t miss the job. It was fun at first but then it got sad. All these guys with their wives and kids and careers and parents. They are stuck. They are unhappy. He knows it.  They know it. He promises himself that he will not be like them in the future. He asks himself why he is thinking about the future. He reminds himself he needs to go through the hell of military service before evening thinking about the future. The future is so far away. He starts to dread military service again. He calms himself down by remembering that he a master at keeping secrets and a great actor. Military service will be the same. He is sure of it. He is sure he can survive. He cleans up the fruit basket from the couple that just left. Now he is alone in the bar. He is alone with his thoughts. Alone with his fears.  The door opens and in comes the rarest of customers here,  a foreigner. How did he find the place? Is he in the right place? Does he know what kind of bar this is? Can he speak Korean?


Words:  392

Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease: 85.77
Flesh Kincaid Grade Level: 3.67

(All stats from


Well, I tried.
I really wanted to write something that could potentially be used here in Korea. Obviously there was a issue I was trying to highlight and get students to think about (and potentially talk about) but I think I might have been a bit over the top with it, which could have trivialized it and made the purpose moot. I also worried that in trying to make a real person out of the character I generalized too much. I also worry that in (over?) emphasizing the hiding aspect I might have delivered a message different than the one I wanted to. Yet, there are gay men in Korea and military service is often a nightmare for them.  I also worried about including the foreigner as well for quite a few reasons but mostly because I worried this would play too much into stereotypes. Before I wrote more words about how I am unhappy with what I wrote, I will stop here. On the bright side I can say that I have not seen this type of text used in Korea before. I am not thrilled with it but I figured I would share it anyway, in case it is interesting or can act as a starting point for someone else. In a previous post I wrote about responding to a student’s response to the issue of gay rights (be sure to check the comments as I think they are interesting and illuminating.) Thanks very much for reading.



  1. Scott Thornbury

    I am totally gripped. The story lends itself to having students write continuations. But in order to avoid them lapsing into stereotypes and/or offensiveness, you might have to negotiate a point of view, perhaps, in some kind of open discussion. Incidentally, Mike, I’m co-hosting a webinar coming up soon, through The New School, which will focus on gay invisibility in EFL contexts, especially with reference to the East Asian region. It would be nice to use your text. Even nicer if you – or a colleague – had used it in class. Any chance?

    • mikecorea

      Hi Scott,
      Thanks so much for commenting. As you can see in the post I had some reservations about posting it. I am glad I did.
      I was thinking this text could be a nice springboard for some discussions and I love the idea of having students write continuations (of course with some consideration of stereotypes and offensiveness).

      The webinar sounds very interesting. Please feel free to use the text. I’d be honored. I am not sure if I will have a chance to use it this term, though. It is a possibility and I will let you know.
      Hmm, When is the webinar? If I can find a way to use it I will be sure to get in touch.

      Thanks again for reading and commenting.

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