Army probes grenade blast that kills one

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Army probes grenade blast that kills one

A hand grenade exploded early Saturday killing one soldier and injuring another at a South Korean guard post in Yeoncheon, Northwestern Gyeonggi, near the border of North Korea.

According to the Korean Army, the explosion occurred about 5:05 a.m. from a container set in a break area with fans and chairs. A 20-year-old private surnamed Choi was killed and a 23-year-old second lieutenant surnamed Park was injured.

Park and Choi were taking a break after finishing a patrol near the heavily militarized, barbed-wire fence of the Korean border.

“Park told Choi to take a break where a fan was provided and Park sat on a chair,” the Korean Army told reporters. “After he closed his eyes for about two minutes, a grenade suddenly exploded from the side where Choi was sitting.”

Park then get out of the break room by himself, reported the explosion and then lost consciousness. He was sent to Ajou University Hospital in Gyeonggi and underwent emergency surgery to remove shrapnel from his neck.

The military is investigating the cause of the explosion, but said it is highly unlikely that the grenade exploded spontaneously. The military said a safety pin and a safety clutch of a grenade were found on the ground near the body of the private and cited suicide as a possible cause.

Choi’s family, however, said there is no possibility that their son would kill himself. “There must have been an accident,” Choi’s mother told the JoongAng Ilbo. “There is no reason for my son to commit suicide. His older sister is getting married soon and our family has been happy without any problems.”

The military said Choi was dispatched to a regiment based in Yeocheon on July 29 after completing boot camp.

BY JEONG YONG-SOO [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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