Top brass must take responsibilityPublic outrage over the death in April of a private, identified only as Yun, after being beaten unconscious by a group of senior soldiers in the Army’s 28th Infantry Division is spreading fast nationwide. The torture Yun endured by his superiors at the medical unit where he served is beyond comprehension. According to military prosecutors, Yun’s superiors went so far as to coerce the private to lick spit and food off the floor of their barracks before he was beaten to death.
We are dumbfounded at such unfathomable violence in the military and are shocked by the fact that such barbaric treatment reminiscent of the days of military dictatorship has occurred in the barracks. The medical unit’s only noncommissioned officer even joined in with the violence. Military prosecutors said such beatings take place even now. What parents would send their sons to such a backwards military?
The Army reprimanded 16 senior and noncommissioned officers for their lack of supervision of their soldiers. However, citizens can hardly accept such lax punishment, as top brass must be held accountable for their negligence. At the same time, military prosecutors must sternly punish the soldiers who joined in the mob attack so as not to repeat such shameful violence in our military. The prosecutors should pay heed to the Center for Military Human Rights’ contention that the prosecution apply murder charges to the senior soldiers instead of death resulting from bodily injury.
Our military faces a monumental crisis. The military authorities’ investigation into the management of soldiers in the Army found that as many as 3,900 soldiers participated in cruel treatment against junior soldiers - ranging from verbal attacks and beatings to other types of assault - in April alone. In a violence-ridden military, discipline and trust between senior and junior soldiers cannot take root. A fatal shooting spree at a general outpost in the 22nd Infantry Division in June also resulted from extreme bullying in the barracks. And last week, a second-class private hanged himself in a barracks bathroom, while another in the 3rd Infantry Division also committed suicide for similar reasons.
Whenever an accident occurs in the military, the authorities vow to reform military culture, but to no avail. A quick fix cannot solve this problem. Our military must kick off a full-fledged probe into such harassment, abuse and bullying and present effective ways to stop them. The military must keep in mind that their combat capability depends on a healthy military culture.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 4, Page 30