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South Korean air force releases 'Les Miserables' parody to boost troop morale

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korean les mis
korean les mis

The South Korean air force needed something to lift the spirits of its servicemen. Their solution? A 14-minute musical parody of Les Misérables.

The video, titled Les Militaribles, adapts the Broadway musical to a South Korean context, swapping French revolutionaries for air force conscripts, and replacing English lyrics with Korean-language alternatives. The altered plot makes no mention of revolution or prostitution, though it does feature the same lead characters — sort of. In the role of Valjean is a Korean airman with an overbearing boss named Javert. When his girlfriend, Cosette, comes to visit his base, Javert gives them only one hour of alone time. Pathos ensues.

Lifting spirits through song

The score, however, doesn't stray far from the source material. Songs like "I Dreamed a Dream" and "Do You Hear The People Sing" are performed in dramatic fashion by an ensemble of airmen, albeit within a more uplifting context. The idea, according to air force officials, is to provide a morale boost for its conscripted servicemen, many of whom have spent a severe winter in remote mountainous regions.

"We made the video to lift the spirit of servicemen who had to work so hard to clear snow during the unusually heavy winter this year," Major Cheon Myeong-nyeong told the South China Morning Post.

It's hard to imagine the US military ever using a Broadway musical to lift the spirits of its troops, but the effort seems to have struck a chord in South Korea. Released online earlier this week, the video has already garnered more than 500,000 hits, boosted in part by a tweet from Russell Crowe, who starred in Tom Hooper's Oscar-nominated (and considerably longer) film adaptation.