Retired military officer detained for rifle loan

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Retired military officer detained for rifle loan

The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency yesterday detained a retired military officer surnamed Song, 53, for allegedly lending five rifles to the head of a private visual firing range manufacturer in exchange for money. Police also detained the manufacturer, surnamed Kim, 54, and indicted five other company employees who allegedly collaborated in the bribery plot without detention.

Police said the retired Korean Army lieutenant colonel received some 33 million won ($28,248) between February and November last year in exchange for selecting the firm to take part in a military festival organized by the Defense Ministry slated for last October and loaning five K2 rifles to be displayed at the event. Song was in charge of selecting the firms to participate in the festival. “I admit what I did, but I removed the firing pins before I lent the rifles so that real bullets could not be fired. There was no danger,” police quoted Song as saying.

The company allegedly lured Song by promising to recruit him upon retirement, and reportedly provided him with a 1 million won monthly allowance on a company credit card, according to investigators.

The firm also pretended that Song’s undergraduate son was an employee and paid him a 2.5 million won monthly wage through the son’s bank account, police said. In response, Song allegedly gave the firm advantages for the military event. “It’s likely that the company thought the rifles would give it an edge promoting its products at the festival, since many high-ranking military officers and defense industry executives were scheduled to appear,” said an officer who asked not to be named. “The company was selling visual shooting ranges to the police and wanted to expand its business to the military sector.”

However, the event was canceled due to the spread of the A(H1N1) virus at the time, police said. The five rifles remained with the company for 114 days since last Aug. 12, before being sent back to the armory. Military authorities are also probing three of the officers who managed the armory.

A fourth noncommissioned officer, who allegedly was bribed with 15 million won for information about building rifles, is also being investigated by the military, police said.

The Korean Army explained that the rifles are out of date and are now only used for display purposes.


By Jeong Seon-eon, Lee Min-yong [smartpower@joongang.co.kr]

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