Despite warnings, 2 soldiers take their own lives

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Despite warnings, 2 soldiers take their own lives

Two soldiers listed as needing special attention committed suicide in two separate incidents on the same day. One was attached to the 3rd Infantry Division and the other to the 22nd Infantry Division. The latter unit was also the scene of a grisly shooting spree in June in which a 22-year-old sergeant killed five colleagues and injured seven others.

Army officials said Monday that the two Army privates, identified only by their surnames, Shin of the 22nd Division and Park of the 3rd, both hanged themselves on Sunday.

Both were evaluated by Army psychological testing as requiring “special attention” because of mental health problems and suicidal tendencies.

Shin, 22, served at a combat support company at the 22nd Division at the border town of Goseong on the eastern frontline in Gangwon province. He was found hanging but still alive by the laces of his sneakers at 4:35 p.m. He was taken to a nearby hospital but died an hour later.

About three hours after that incident, Park, 21, assigned to the 3rd Division on the central front in Cholwon, Gangwon, was also found hanged at a toilet. He was pronounced dead at a hospital at about 11 p.m.

According to military spokesmen, Shin had trouble adapting to military life. After several transfers, he was assigned to the 3rd Division’s artillery, considered a difficult job at a front-line unit.

Park started his service in June; he had received medication for two weeks to treat depression, the officials said.

In Korea, all conscripts go through a psychological evaluation by the Korea Institute for Defense Analysis four times during their two-year mandatory military service.

The evaluation divides psychological problems into three categories: Class A, which indicates a need for “special attention”; Class B, requiring “focused attention”; and Class C, which calls for “basic-level attention.”

“We ask their superiors to pay more attention to soldiers in those three categories, such as counseling them more often,” an Army official said. “There is no other detailed management system aside from the three-category listing.”

According to the National Defense Ministry, about 17,000 conscripts in the military are classified as Class-A, 3.6 percent of the nation’s military manpower. The officials said they were studying a more effective, detailed psychological test for soldiers and the hiring of 10 additional psychiatrists.

BY KIM HEE-JIN, YOO SEONG-WOON [heejin@joongang.co.kr ]




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