There are people who are always protecting us, whether nearby or in the distance. They are the soldiers who serve and sacrifice their lives to protect the country, people and their loved ones. Countless soldiers get injured during military operations such as gun accidents and landmine explosions and even get killed in wars. This article will cover the story of retired sergeant Ha Jae-Hun, who lost his two legs when a North Korean mine exploded while he was conducting a search operation in the DMZ in 2015. He has been playing as a member of the disabled rowing national team since the accident, participating in the Paralympics as a disabled rowing player. Let me introduce Ha Jae-Hun, who is now moving forward with both arms.
1. I assume that the present life after the accident would be considered as a second life. There must have been fear or pain. How did you overcome and challenge your new life?
The fear was not that big even though people around me, including my parents, worried a lot. I have dreamed of becoming an athlete since I was young and played in a baseball team during high school. When I was receiving rehabilitation treatment in the hospital after the accident, the current coach of my team recommended me to join his rowing team. After refusing for two years, I started it just to relieve stress. Afterward, I had some success and it was fun. This is how I began my career as a rower. That takeoff brought me here in the national rowing team.
2. What helped you the most to overcome the difficult time?
My parents were always beside me when I was in the hospital. Because my parents were always there to support me, I was able to overcome the difficult time well. Also, the encouragement and support of my acquaintances and many people helped me a lot.
3. Are you conscious of the eyes of people in your daily life?
Of course. At first, I cried a lot alone and even thought of committing suicide. But now, I take it for granted. Sometimes when I hear people talking about me behind my back, I go and say something to them. (laughs)
4. I'm sure you've been under stress from the recent controversy, how do you manage your mental health during training? (The Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs judgedthat he was injured in the course of education, training or other official duties, protecting the nation, ensuring safety, or performing duties indirectly, which are related to the protection of people's lives and property. This judgment could undermine his reputation as a soldier.)
At first, it was very stressful. I got the news on August 20th, which was only three days before the national team match, so I had to concentrate on my training. I was very angry and dumbfounded. This happened to me during training and even during a match, but I decided to concentrate on the match as much as I could.
5. How would you compare your previous life as a solider with your current life as a member of national rowing team?
There are many similarities. More than anything else, I think the biggest similarity is to represent the country. When I was a soldier, I used to protect the country, and now as a national team player, I represent the country. Therefore, I do it with a sense of responsibility as I did as a soldier. Also, I live in a dormitory like I did in the military. It makes me think about the days when I served in the search unit of the 1st Infantry Division. I sometimes miss having fun with my colleagues after work as a soldier.
6. Rowing is not a sport that ordinary people encounter readily. Could you explain the sport?
It's basically a water race. You just row in a boat to compete for speed. Disabled Rowing that I’m participating in is divided into PR 1, 2 and 3, depending on physical health. PR 1 needs your arms only, PR 2 needs arms and waists, and PR 3 uses arms, waists and legs. Usually, the rating varies depending on what type of disability you have. I'm rated PR 1. At least one non-disabled person will be rowing, disabled people up to four, and non-disabled people up to eight. I think rowing is an attractive sport in that it can be influenced by wind, waves, etc.
7. What is your goal as a national team player?
Perhaps the final goal is to win the Olympic medal, which is the biggest success as an athlete. First of all, I want to do well in the Asian Games and take part in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.
8. Do you have any words for the current soldiers?
Safety is the most important thing. I hope that soldiers who are forced to serve for about two years because of the conscription system do not get hurt, spend their time safely and wisely before getting discharged. Also, I feel bitterness for the lack of social recognition of soldiers, which does not seem to be very good. For example, I have seen people swear to soldiers who seat themselves in public transportation such as buses and subways. As they struggle to protect our country, I hope that how soldiers are viewed and treated in society will be improved.
9. Do you have any words for university students?
The most important thing to say is that no matter what you do, you have a way to live. Look at me living as an athlete without breaking down even after losing both legs. I hope you don't feel too anxious about the future and stick to the current situation.
Now we heard the story of an honorable sergeant who devoted himself to keeping the country safe. Let's hope he will become an icon of hope for our university students as he has lost half of his body but is moving forward without losing hope. Also, let's remember once again the hard work of our soldiers, who are willing to spare their lives so that we can live in a safe country without worries.
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