NGO assails response to horrific abuse in Army

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NGO assails response to horrific abuse in Army

The story of an Army private who was beaten to death in April was one of systemic mental and physical abuse, including sexual harassment by his fellow soldiers. A human rights group says the assaults that continued until the last day of the soldier’s life.

At a press conference by the Center for Military Human Rights on Thursday, officials of the non-governmental organization described parts of the Army documents describing its investigation into the death.

The NGO’s officials said the 23-year-old conscript, identified only by his surname, Yun, had been assaulted and abused by his superiors because he was “too slow in his actions and speaking.” Yun served with the Army’s 28th Division.

The Army has arrested six soldiers allegedly involved in the assaults. Military prosecutors indicted the six, including a sergeant surnamed Lee, 27, for involuntary manslaughter. A military tribunal is handling the case. But the center called on the military to add to the charges against the suspects, calling the death a murder and some of the abuse sexual harrasment.

Based on interviews with other soldiers who did not bully him, Yun was beaten so badly that he walked with a slight limp, which became another reason for the assailants to bully him. When Yun lost consciousness because of repeated assaults, they gave him an injection of glucose to awaken him, the witnesses said. When he was conscious, the violence began again.

One staff sergeant who witnessed the violence usually ignored it but sometimes joined in on the abuse with other soldiers, the center said. The staff sergeant was also charged.

Some extraordinarily inhumane tactics were described in testimony, according to the center. The suspects allegedly demanded that Yun mimic a dog and lick their spit from the floor, witnesses told the center. He was also sexually harassed, as when his tormenters put an anti-inflammatory ointment on his penis, causing extreme pain.

Frequently, the victim was forced to remain awake until 3 a.m., standing in “a horse-riding posture.” He sometimes had to eat a tube of toothpaste or endure 1.5 liters of water poured onto his face,” witnesses said.

According to the center, Yun died on April 6. The day before his death at about 9:45 p.m., his superiors, including the sergeant named Lee, started to beat him and continued until 2 a.m. Three other superiors helped the assailants, standing guard outside.

Tired of beating him, Lee ordered Yun not to sleep all night. But Lee started to beat him again, at about 7:30 a.m. on April 6, because Yun did not follow his orders.

At 10 a.m., witnesses said they spat on the floor and ordered him to lick it up. At 3:30 p.m., when Yun was eating some dumplings and chicken at a military restaurant, they approached him and beat his chest, chin and cheek because “he chewed so loudly.”

At about 4:30 p.m., Yun suddenly fell to the floor, involuntarily urinating. But the assailants did not stop abusing him because, they said, Yun was pretending.

But Yun never woke up again. The four senior soldiers began to see something was seriously wrong and attempted to perform CPR. Yun was taken to a military hospital and was pronounced dead there.

The suspects allegedly colluded with each other to lie about his death. They told Army officials at the hospital, “Yun abruptly fell while he was watching TV after eating something.” They also asked the staff sergeant who had witnessed their abuse to keep quiet about it. On the day Yun’s death was confirmed, early on April 7, they burnt two of Yun’s notebooks.

Witnesses told the center that Yun had suffered brutal violence almost every day since he was dispatched to the unit in February. He was blocked from visiting a church at the unit for fear that he would divulge their abuse.

Yun’s family is demanding charges of murder against all the soldiers involved in the violence.

Following the NGO’s press conference, an Army official said yesterday the military would consider adding more charges, but he said the allegations of sexual harassment were not true. “The suspects told the victim to put the ointment on his penis by himself,” said Choe Yong-han, an Army public affairs official, said at a briefing yesterday. Choe also said murder charges had been ruled out because “the suspects did not intend to murder him.” That comment angered Lim Tae-hun, the head of the military’s human rights center.

He told reporters yesterday that Yun’s superiors put the ointment on his penis. “The Army is lying,” he said. “If they continue to lie, I will reveal all the military records to the public.”

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







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