Soldiers divulge details of abuse by superiors

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Soldiers divulge details of abuse by superiors

“I was forced to lick a toilet and was often slapped so hard that my eardrums would burst,” an Army private first class told the JoongAng Ilbo at the East Seoul Express Bus Terminal on Tuesday. The conscripted soldier, who asked for anonymity because he feared repercussions, revealed shocking details of abuse at the hands of superiors in his military unit.

The private said he was ordered to lick the toilets when senior soldiers were not happy with the way he cleaned the barracks bathroom.

The young soldier added that he reported the abuse to a higher chain of command only to see others in his unit isolating him, calling him a traitor and removing his belongings from his locker.

Based on interviews conducted by the JoongAng Ilbo with 108 conscripts at major train and bus stations in Seoul on Tuesday, a considerable number of respondents said physical and emotional abuse inflicted by superiors is still rampant inside barracks, where unit members sleep together on a wooden floor.

Of the 108 interviewed, 22 said they were physically abused by those with higher ranks. Twenty soldiers said they witnessed beatings at barracks.

Aside from physical abuse, many cited sexual harassment, group isolation and verbal assault as examples of rampant abuses ongoing at barracks.

Many of the respondents asked that their units’ names not be revealed due to fear of retribution from senior soldiers.

One sergeant told the JoongAng Ilbo at Seoul Station that a superior threatened him with a loaded rifle when he was standing guard with him as a private first class. He recalled his body being badly bruised after he was beaten by the same superior with a rifle.

Several of the reasons the soldiers gave as to why seniors abused their subordinates were trivial and irrational, such as because they were too slow or failed to memorize food menus for the next month.

Taking advantage of their rank, some soldiers practically tortured lower ranks by telling them to eat bugs or lick the floor.

“When a private first arrives at a unit, some tell him to eat a bug, saying it will give him more discipline,” said a corporal.

Many forms of inhumane punishment occur inside barracks, soldiers said. “I saw one soldier forcing a junior to eat three to four instant ramen noodles packs all at once,” said another sergeant.

Many also said the military’s effort to stem such violence has largely failed, stating that the principle of confidentiality has been breached many times.

“It is best that you don’t tell what is happening inside a unit to others. If you do, everyone around you in your unit will know about it,” said another sergeant.

BY AHN HYO-SUNG [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]





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