Military could lose public’s favorThe military has been criticized for multiple cases of poor discipline and mismanagement of soldiers since one went on a shooting spree two weeks ago, killing five of his colleagues near the heavily armed border and it is now accused of lying and attempting to cover up mistakes made during the hunt for the fugitive. Anyone with a son would think twice about sending him into such an unreliable military.
On June 21, a 22-year-old Army sergeant in the 22nd infantry division stationed in the border town of Goseong, Gangwon, who had been put on special watch due to mental health issues, opened fire and threw a grenade at his fellow soldiers, killing five and injuring seven. He fled but was caught after he attempted suicide following a two-day standoff. During questioning after he recovered from his injury, the soldier - identified by his surname Lim - testified differently to statements made by the military. The Defense Ministry had said a platoon leader suffered a gunshot wound during the manhunt. But Lim claimed that the K-2 rifle he fled with didn’t work and that he didn’t shoot anyone after he escaped. The military is now investigating whether the wound was the result of a misfire from the Army search team. Lim also said he was confronted by searchers three times as he was running away, but they let him go when he said he was running an errand.
After the shooting rampage, it took almost an hour for the helicopter to arrive to take the injured soldiers to the hospital. The division head said that all Army lines necessary to endorse the use of a chopper were busy at the time. The families of the dead are left wondering whether some of the soldiers could have been saved if they had arrived at the hospital sooner. The military was highly secretive and deceptive when it had another soldier pose as the captured soldier as he was transported to the hospital and it has also refused to disclose his suicide note. Surely, Lim cannot be trusted to tell the whole truth. But the military’s strange actions raise suspicion that it also has something to hide.
National security will be at risk if the military loses the public’s trust. The military must tell its story honestly and admit to any wrongdoings and mistakes if any were made. Without openness, military accidents cannot be prevented in the future and the public will be reluctant to send its sons into the military.
JoongAng Ilbo, July 3. Page 34