Conscripts blow whistle on abuse among police

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Conscripts blow whistle on abuse among police

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Junior policemen in Busan who wrote confidential reports on whether they have been abused by their superiors. [YOHHAP]


The brutal abuse of young men doing their compulsory military duty in the police has come out of the closet.

Last weekend, six policemen abandoned their units in southern Gangwon and sent an e-mail to their superiors complaining of physical and emotional abuse by older officers.

And on Tuesday, a 20-year-old conscript to the riot police in Nam District, Incheon, hung himself from a tree outside a wedding hall, not able to stand the abuse anymore. According to the police, the young man surnamed Sim had abandoned his duties and fled the unit twice last May. Sim was diagnosed with an adjustment disorder by a hospital and was given a leave of absence for six months. Sim was supposed to return to his unit the day he committed suicide.

At Sim’s mourning altar Wednesday, the JoongAng Ilbo met Gu Ja-nam, 49, whose son was in the same police unit as Sim.

Gu said his son was at home weeping alone in his room, and he asked his father to visit the altar in his place.

Gu’s son was subjected to the same abuse as Sim. Gu recalled his first reunion with his son last August after he had been dispatched to the unit.

“He was shivering like a dog pummeled by a bat,” Gu said. His son had earlier dreamt of being a policeman, but when he met his son last August, he was weeping and told the father to throw away all food he had prepared for the reunion.

Realizing something was wrong, the father requested a meeting with the commander of the police station. He admitted that the son had been beaten by his superiors since his first day of duty. His son had been kicked, slapped and punched for three days in a row. His eardrum was injured. So, too, was the hand he used to block the physical attacks.

After the meeting, his son was sent to another team, but the older policemen on the team started to exclude him, swear at him and give him too much work.

The son has been receiving therapy since September. Gu said his son hasn’t been able to walk well or have a long conversation with his parents since the abuse.

Faced with rising criticism of violence in police stations, the National Police Agency yesterday ordered junior policemen in 117 units in Seoul, Gyeonggi, Incheon, South Chungcheong and Daejeon to write confidential reports about their experiences of abuse by their seniors.

Out of 2,334, 191 policemen said they have been assaulted by their superiors.

Sixty-nine of the victims said they had been hit or punched, and the remaining 122 said they had been abused verbally or in other ways.

A junior riot policeman said he has been sexually abused, claiming his senior “put his body to him and made some sexual moves.”

Another officer said a senior slapped his face because “he snores at night.”


By Lee Han-gil, Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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