Violence scandal also rocks Navy

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Violence scandal also rocks Navy

Amid intensifying criticism aimed at the military following the death in April of a young Army conscript who faced systematic beatings at the hands of his fellow soldiers, another case of abuse has come to light, this time involving a Navy sailor.

The victim, a 20-year-old seaman, was reported to have had an emergency surgery for a ruptured spleen following an assault by two fellow officers, according to the Navy.

The incident is the latest in a string of similar issues regarding bullying and violence in the military, encouraged or at least tolerated by superiors. Such violent occurrences have raised questions about military culture as well as how well the organization has dealt with human rights issues regarding its soldiers and seamen.

According to the Navy Headquarters and the Changwon District Prosecutors’ Office on Wednesday, the incident occurred on Dec. 12 at a military police unit of the Jinhae Naval Base in Changwon, South Gyeongsang, and involved two petty officers second class.

The Navy singled out two petty officers second class, one 22 and the other 21, saying that the sailors physically abused four seaman. The men allegedly had four seamen, including the victim, get down on the floor as punishment for their poor attitude during evening roll call, and then kicked the victim on the side five times.

“We believe that the five kicks the two petty officers delivered directly caused the seaman’s spleen to rupture,” said Captain Choi Tae-bok, a public relations officer for the Navy Headquarters. “We also learned that the seaman was beaten by the two petty officers additional times that day.”

The victim eventually passed out due to the beating and was subsequently transported to the Navy’s hospital and later transferred to the Kyungpook National University Hospital for emergency surgery on his spleen. He stayed there for four weeks while he recovered.

Military prosecutors summarily indicted the two suspects on Feb. 13, fining them 1.5 million won ($1,445) each. The relatively light punishments for the two men has led some to wonder, in the wake of recent events, if the military was again trying to cover up a case of violence against its own.

Navy investigators later discovered that the two petty officers had frequently abused the seaman, from October to December, punching and kicking him in the face and body. They even went so far as to threaten to kill him if he reported the violence.

Experts say that the penalties were too light, and that based on the mistreatment of the victims, the offenders could have potentially received heavier sentences. The two petty officers completed their military service on March 15, one month after their initial prosecution. In the meantime, no trial was held, and the case was then transferred to the Changwon District Court, a civil court, and the Changwon District Prosecutors’ Office.

On April 1, the military prosecution at the Changwon District Court belatedly prosecuted the two petty officers for continuous abuse after discovering that the charges against them were more serious than those in the original investigation. However, prosecutors from the Changwon District Prosecutors’ Office again indicted them, slapping them with yet another monetary charge.

Each of the petty officers was sentenced with a 3 million won monetary penalty on July 11 based on the original charges.

The second prosecution is still ongoing.

Prosecutors admitted that they overlooked the fact that the two cases from both courts were the same and are considering combining them to seek prison terms for the two petty officers.

BY WEE SUNG-WOOK [bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]







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