In suicide note, troubled soldier expressed regret

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In suicide note, troubled soldier expressed regret

In a note that he scribbled just minutes before he pulled the trigger, a Korean Army sergeant who had been on the run for two days after fatally shooting five of his fellow soldiers expressed his remorse to the families of the victims as well as his own.

According to Ministry of National Defense spokesman Kim Min-seok, the suspect, only identified by his surname Lim, also expressed regret over his actions Saturday evening at a frontline outpost, where he shot and killed five soldiers and injured seven more in a violent rampage that stunned the nation.

“He first apologized to his family, as well as to the victims’ relatives,” Kim said during a press briefing yesterday at the Defense Ministry. He added that Lim, of the Army’s 22nd Division, had also described his feelings in a rather abstract tone.

Lim was captured alive by the military on Monday on a rugged hill shortly after he shot himself between the chest and left shoulder in front of his father, who was at the scene pleading with his son to surrender.

His failed suicide attempt ended a 44-hour manhunt that began after the 22-year-old fled after carrying out the shooting spree.

Lim’s capture came 23 hours after troops first squared off with him at Hyeonnae-myeon, in the border county of Goseong, about seven kilometers (4.3 miles) away from the outpost where Lim carried out the carnage.

The spokesman said the military collected 29 bullets from Lim, who ran from the General Outpost (GOP) facing North Korea with 75 rounds of live ammunition and a K-2 standard-issue assault rifle.

“Lim fired 45 bullets [at military troops pursuing him] and used one bullet on himself,” Kim said.

Kim refuted earlier media reports stating that Lim had detailed in his note how he was ignored by his fellow soldiers, including the lower ranks, and had difficulty fitting in. Lim did not write such a complaint, he said.

Following the sergeant’s capture, a number of local newspapers reported, citing unnamed sources, that Lim had been deeply isolated from other conscripts.

They also reported that he dropped out of high school because of bullying and instead took a high school qualification exam to graduate seemed to have only bolstered these views.

The ministry spokesman said military investigators have yet to find evidence that will explain Lim’s motive.

Authorities have also wondered why Lim, who joined the Army in December 2012, committed such a brutal act against his fellow soldiers when he had just less than three months until he was to be discharged from the military on Sept. 16. He had lived with the victims for more than a year during his service.

Serving in frontline units patrolling the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea is known for being stressful and physically taxing. The DMZ is two and a half miles wide and laden with land mines left over from the 1950-53 Korean War. It divides the peninsula across the 38th parallel.

After being transported to Gangneung Asan Hospital in Gangwon following his capture, Lim underwent a nearly three-hour surgery for a gunshot wound that penetrated the upper left side of his chest. According to the hospital, he also fractured his shoulder bone and a rib.

Lim began to communicate verbally yesterday and is recovering after the surgery. The military is set to begin intensive questioning soon over what drove him to open fire.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr ]




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