[EDITORIALS]An inhuman act of punishmentIn an act unprecedented in its cruelty, a captain recently forced 192 recruits at the Army’s main boot camp to eat human excrement. Apparently, this order was issued because some trainees had used the latrines without flushing the toilets. There have been cruel acts of punishment in the military before, but barbarism like this we have not heard of before.
Circumstances suggest that this is not an isolated case involving one crazy captain; rather, it suggests a severe problem in the system that made such an act possible. For 10 days, the incident went undetected by the Army’s intelligence and investigative units and by the boot camp’s command. The fact that 192 recruits were involved also raises question marks. If Army authorities really didn’t know what was going on, then there are problems with Army intelligence-gathering or with the boot camp’s command. If there was an attempt to cover up the incident, the problem is even bigger.
This will further encourage mistrust toward the Army. Not even prisoners of war would be subjected to such treatment. If there was a discipline problem, other methods could have been used. How could a person like this captain become an officer, let alone a commander responsible for training a company? Whom should parents trust when they send their sons to the Army? This proves that the Army’s claims that cruel punishments have been abandoned, that the food has improved and that everyone acts like a family are nothing but hollow slogans. In light of the current draft-dodging trend, how can any youngster be expected to do his duty if he is to be treated like this?
This cannot end simply with an apology by Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-woong to the people. It should also not end like other scandals have in the past, with a few punishments here and there along the command structure. Whether it’s the defense minister or the Army chief of staff, somebody has to take responsibility. While the Defense Ministry and Army Headquarters are at odds over possible irregularities in Army promotions, we are witnessing atrocities in subordinate units.
This is proof that the military’s awful punishment culture, the origins of which are Japanese, is still alive. The mentality of soldiers has to change. Subordinates are subordinates, but they are also human beings. The system by which officers are selected, and their posts assigned, needs to be reevaluated.