Suicides in military can still be called men of merit

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Suicides in military can still be called men of merit

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that a soldier who commits suicide during military service should be recognized as a man of national merit if the death is linked to army training or his duties.

The court’s ruling reverses the earlier notion that the suicide of a soldier as a result of harsh treatment was not considered honorable to the country.

On Monday, the Supreme Court sent a case back to the Daegu High Court filed by the family of a soldier surnamed Jang who killed himself while serving in the military after overturning its verdict.

The family had taken steps to sue the head of the Daegu branch of the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs and appealed to the high court that their son should be “recognized as a man of national merit,” which the court rejected.

“Though a soldier died after committing suicide while in military service, if the death is related to military education and training or duties he should be acknowledged for his service to the country,” the Supreme Court stated. “He shouldn’t be excluded from becoming a man of merit just because he voluntarily chose to kill himself.”

The highest court also said, “Article 4 of the past law governing the National Patriot Act states that anyone who has committed suicide should be excluded from the list of men of national merit but this is only when the death is not related to his or her duties or training.”

According to the ruling, Jang, the deceased soldier, entered the Air Force to serve his mandatory military service in May 1998. He was known to have been bullied by senior soldiers and he committed suicide by hanging himself using his belt in a bathroom.

Jang’s family submitted documents to the Patriots and Veterans Affairs Ministry to have their son recognized as a man of merit but was rejected. The family filed a suit but lost. Then they filed a petition to a fact-finding committee under the military in 2006 and the committee found that “Jang died because of stress and personal attack due to his senior officers’ habitual beating, cruel actions and group bullying.”

With the Supreme Court’s ruling, the family will be able to register their son as a victim who died while serving the country.

“It isn’t right to blame an individual’s weakness as the only cause of a suicide,” said Jeon Soo-an, chief justice at the Supreme Court.
By Chae Yoon-kyung[angie@joongang.co.kr ]

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