[EDITORIALS]Army again in disgraceEight soldiers, including a platoon leader, were killed and two were seriously wounded when a private identified as Kim Dong-min threw a grenade and started shooting his fellow soldiers at a guard post in the Demilitarized Zone.
Recently, there has been a string of disgraceful incidents in the Korean Army, including the discovery of breaches in South Korean border fences at the end of last year and an incident in which an officer forced recruits to eat human excrement. This incident of a South Korean soldier shooting fellow soldiers at a location merely hundreds of yards away from the North Korean Army shows just how low the discipline of the South Korean Army has dropped.
According to statements issued by the Army, the private reportedly had complained that a senior soldier had habitually directed abusive language at him. Mr. Kim, who is now in Army custody, confessed that he set off the grenade in a fit of rage when he entered the barracks after finishing his shift at 2:30 a.m. and saw the face of the senior soldier sleeping.
If his statements are true, it shows that substantial verbal abuse existed even at this guard post, where it is said that only elite soldiers are posted. If so, what was the Army doing despite its proclamation of a “war against cruel treatment” and the opening of a center to process human rights abuse complaints in the army?
Were these merely empty gestures to pacify public outrage after the disgraceful incidents and soon forgotten? It is a shame that this incident happened just five months after the “human excrement” incident, after which the defense minister had promised to prevent any further cruel treatment of soldiers by their superiors. The defense minister should provide a good explanation about this.
This incident has only heightened the public distrust of the Army. Now, Korean parents with sons will feel even more worried and fearful about sending their sons to the Army. The service should not stop at issuing an apology and implementing shallow disciplinary measures. The commanding officers of the military unit should be investigated thoroughly and be made to take full responsibility. Responsibility for this tragic event should also be demanded from the leadership of the military including the Chief of the Army Staff.