Military worried about series of fatal accidents

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Military worried about series of fatal accidents

A string of fatal accidents in recent weeks has the Korean military scrambling.

The mishaps have been so frequent that there has been criticism over an apparent lack of military discipline.

Minister of National Defense Kim Tae-young apologized yesterday for the military accidents.

“Minister Kim expressed deep regret at a high-ranking meeting this morning and ordered each military branch to come up with substantial safety measures,” Defense Ministry spokesman Won Tae-jae said at a media briefing.

Won said the minister also ordered “ministry-initiated countermeasures” to prevent the recurrence of similar accidents.

Three Army soldiers died on Wednesday after a inflatable rubber raft carrying eight soldiers capsized in Yeoju, Gyeonggi, during a river-crossing exercise. One of the survivors was still unconscious and in critical condition, according to the ministry as of yesterday afternoon.

The ministry said the soldiers were all wearing life jackets at the time of the accident, the cause of which is still under investigation. The military also said on Wednesday that a 22-year-old soldier surnamed Lee was found dead in a restroom on a military base in Yeoncheon, Gyeonggi, around midnight on Tuesday with three bullets lodged his chest.

“A soldier ran to the scene when he heard the gunshots and performed emergency first-aid procedures on Lee to no avail,” said a military official.

Authorities think that Lee’s death could be a possible suicide but the exact cause of death won’t be disclosed until an autopsy is performed with the family’s consent.

Earlier on Tuesday, during a training exercise, an armored military vehicle another armored vehicle, causing the car in front to tumble 2 meters (6.56 feet) down a cliff off a road in Hongcheon, Gangwon. Two soldiers in the car that fell off the cliff are being treated for severe wounds. Two other soldiers in the first car were unhurt.

In addition, a 150-ton Navy patrol boat with 30 sailors aboard sank near Jeju Island on Nov. 11 after colliding with a commercial fishing vessel on its way back from a routine mission. One sailor died and two others are still missing as of yesterday.

The Navy is now working to pull the vessel from the ocean floor - about 120 meters in depth. Two pilots died the next day during a surveillance mission in a reconnaissance airplane, which crashed on a mountainside in Imsil, North Jeolla.

By Christine Kim, Moon Gwang-lip []
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