Private’s killing strikes fear in countless parents

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Private’s killing strikes fear in countless parents

At the front gate of an Army unit in Paju, Gyeonggi, groups of parents looking unusually anxious stood in line Saturday morning waiting to see their sons - and make sure they were alive and unbruised.

“After the news broke out about Private First Class Yun, I couldn’t get to sleep because I was so worried,” said a father surnamed Kim, who came up from Seoul.

“My wife checked into a hospital because she had a breakdown in nerves after days of overwhelming worry.”

After horrendous details of the month-long torture of Private First Class Yun that left him dead in April were made public - along with pictures showing bruises and gashes all over his dead body - a sense of panic has crept into parents who have recently sent their sons off to serve their 22-month mandatory military service.

Concerned that their sons could share the same fate as Yun, parents are paying visits to the units where their sons are dispatched.

The purpose of the visits is clear: They are looking for any sign of physical abuse on their sons’ bodies from hazing, bullying and sexual abuse or humiliation.

“I will have to take my son to a public bathhouse so I can check his body,” said a 48-year-old father who only wished to be identified by his surname Park.

One father told the JoongAng Ilbo that he came to the Paju unit to make sure his son was not abused with his own eyes - even though his son already assured him over the phone that he was fine.

A 57-year-old father surnamed Song said he came all the way from Busan, which took him over six hours by bus.

“I told my wife I would strip my son’s uniform off him to see any signs of beatings.”

At an artillery unit under the Army’s 28th Division, where Private First Class Yun was abused at the hands of his superiors until his death on April 6, 13 family groups paid a visit Saturday to see their sons, about double the number before Yun’s death made the headlines, according to a military officer there.

“I could not stay home after I found out that it was my son’s unit where the accident happened,” said a man in his 50s at the entrance gate of the unit that is now at the center of public attention.

At the gate was a battalion commander apologizing to the families for the need to wait before meetings with their sons, a courtesy considered very rare for a high-ranking military man.

BY JEON ICK-JIN, KIM YOUN-HO [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]







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