Reinventing our military culture

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Reinventing our military culture

The army announced that the 22-year-old sergeant who opened fire on members of his own unit on June 21 at a general post near the border with North Korea killing five and injuring seven, committed the crime out of rage against his fellow soldiers for making fun of him.

The conscript, with just a few months left until he was discharged, planned bloody vengeance after he discovered cartoon drawings on the pages of the unit’s patrol logbook depicting him as a goofy cartoon character. He said he found the caricature particularly insulting because it brought back memories of bullying when he was in school. Lim, who had been on a special watch list after failing psychological evaluations, testified that he had been ridiculed often by both lower- and higher-ranking officers of his unit in Goseong, Gangwon. He decided to take deadly revenge because he felt he could not go on living even after he was discharged.

Whatever the reason, his murderous act of opening fire on his fellow soldiers and throwing a grenade at them cannot be forgiven. But the army must ask itself how it could have let a young man go to such an extreme due to rage and humiliation. The pressure of barrack bullying in an isolated place like the outpost near the heavily armed border could be unbearable for anyone. How can the country demand that parents send their precious sons to the army under such circumstances? Military culture must be entirely reorganized. At the same time, the military must instill discipline, as it was disastrously sloppy in the manhunt following the shooting rampage. Without reinventing itself, the military will be no match for North Korea regardless of spending or arms upgrades.

The military must set new guidelines for soldiers who have trouble adapting to military life. At the 22nd Infantry Division where the shooting spree took place, one out of five men had been on the watch list for poor adaptability. The military must toughen its psychological evaluations to filter out youth who cannot endure rigorous and isolated service life. Lim dropped out of high school for psychiatric treatment, but he passed military tests. More psychiatrists should be placed at military posts so that servicemen with trouble can turn to them. Many young men enter military for self-exile after a divorce in their family or other problems. They need someone to talk to at times of loneliness and despair - especially when they are stationed in remote places. Strong defense comes from a stable military life. JoongAng Ilbo, July 16, Page 34

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