Just Bananas About: Week of 6/26/15

In light of 6.25 this week, Real Men decided to feature a specialized unit that excavates remains from the Korean War. The men head to Hwacheon which borders the 38th parallel and was often a hotspot during the war due to power plant.

June 25th is an important day of remembrance in Korea as it signifies the start of the Korean War. It’s not clear who fired the first shots but within a short time, war erupted all along the 38th parallel. While the Soviet Union had been supplying the North with arms before the start of the war, the South didn’t have any tanks or heavy artillery. So within 5 short days, Southern troops reported losing more than 75% of their men, approximately 73,000 soldiers.

The members of the Real Men cast are brought up the hills. They’ll sleep in a tent at night and work in the mountains during the day. The unit first uses a metal detector to detect whether they are able to find metal particles in the ground. As most of the articles left by the deceased were metallic, like in canteens, canned goods, bullets and belt buckles, it helps to narrow down where the unit should dig.

For the first 4 hours, the group keeps digging in the ground but to no avail. That is, right before their lunch break. One of the groups discovers bones in the ground and within the next few hours they discover that there is more than one person that’s buried in the vicinity. They find a ring which would indicate that the soldier was most likely married at the time he died.

They also discover remains of the soldier’s combat boot and a rifle magazine full of bullets. That would indicate that the soldier had died without even getting a chance to fire a shot.

After discovering some bones, Lee Kyu Han makes a more alarming discovery. He finds dog tags in the ground which is incredibly rare. Dog tags weren’t consistently issued to troops until it became a mandatory standard after the war. Even the soldiers of this unit mention that they had never seen a dog tag until now as there’s only about a 1% chance of finding them.

However, with the discovery of the dog tag, they not only know his name but can also discover his rank and unit. It’s most helpful in that they are not only able to identify the body but it’s the best chance in being able to deliver the remains back to any surviving relatives of the deceased. As for other remains, the unit must conduct a DNA test but if there’s no DNA from a surviving relative, it’s hard to make a comparison.

In a bit of lighter news, the unit is treated to some jjajang ramen as an evening snack.  They ask Chef Sam Kim to cook it for them.  Although he’s been having a hard time cooking in such large portions in previous units, it seems that he was able to redeem himself a bit here.

On the following day, Lim Won Hee, Julian Kang and Kim Young Chul, are asked to participate in a ceremony in which a soldier’s remains are returned to the family. The DNA test had been completed to prove that the remains of this soldier are the brother of the surviving relatives. The military expresses their regret that it has taken them this long to return this hero back to the family. It’s quite sad that this woman and her brother had lived 65 years and never imagined reuniting with their brother.

I’m sure it’s a humbling experience to serve in this unit and yet, it’s an important and necessary unit as the Korean War not only left a lot of families separated between the two borders but within the same borders as well.

The show incorporated a lot of shots from the moving Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War and The Front Line. I’ve heard that Taegukgi was a great movie as well but I’ve only seen the latter. The movie and the performances are quite moving (especially Lee Je Hoon) and I definitely recommend it if you haven’t seen it before.

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