What happened to the Marines?

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What happened to the Marines?

The latest shooting spree at a Marine post on Ganghwa Island is utterly shocking. Six years ago we believed that a military accident like the one at an Army unit in Yeoncheon, north of Seoul - in which eight Army soldiers were killed and two injured by a grenade and an indiscriminate rifle shooting - would never be repeated. But similar carnage took place again, and this time at a Marine unit. We wonder what the military authorities have done to prevent such tragedies for six years.

Similar to the Yeoncheon massacre, which was carried out by a private first class who had suffered from verbal abuse by his superiors, the Ganghwa accident was committed by a corporal who had been bullied by his subordinates. The porous weapons control system was also not fixed, and commanders didn’t pay heed to a troubled young soldier who could resort to violence.

Considering our military environment, where hot-blooded young men live in a confined space under strict rules, the possibility for such tragedies is always there. But the state has done nothing to avert that possibility, and that’s its duty.

Our soldiers and their families fully deserve fair treatment from the government because they join the military to fulfill their military duty under the current conscription system. The state should provide special care and sufficient compensation for soldiers when they get injured or lose their lives during drills or in battle against enemies. The state must make sure that it doesn’t lose lives in any other way or circumstance. That’s why we dub our military duty “sacred.”

The government and military must come up with extraordinary measures to prevent such unnecessary deaths of our young soldiers. We should stamp out the wishy-washy attitude among top brass that such accidents can happen in our armed forces because it is a military. Instead of trying to settle the case by holding some front-line commanders accountable, they must come up with a detailed and concrete set of solutions to stave off such tragedies. That’s more urgent than the military reform they’re so obsessed with. We urge Minister of National Defense Kim Kwan-jin to sort out the mess.

A strong Army is not created by high-powered weapons but by mutual trust among soldiers and a spirit of sacrifice in times of crisis. The Marines are famous for their valor and bravery in the toughest of circumstances. The latest tragedy has shattered the reputation of our Marines as well as our faith in the state.
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