‘Evil’ in military decried by ParkPresident Park Geun-hye presided over a meeting of leaders of the armed forces yesterday to discuss measures to tackle “anti-human evil practices” in the ranks and find ways to “overhaul” South Korea’s military culture after an Army private died from physical abuse and two troubled corporals from the same division committed joint suicide.
The presidential meeting, apparently prompted by the belated disclosure of the brutal death of a 23-year-old private in the Army’s 28th Division in April that was covered up for months, came less than a month after she invited all military commanders to the Blue House for a luncheon to discuss a very similar goal.
The July 16 meeting followed a fatal shooting spree on June 21 by an Army sergeant surnamed Lim at a general outpost (GOP) near the eastern front in Goseong, Gangwon, in which five soldiers were fatally mowed down.
“Our youngsters have devoted the most precious time of their lives to fulfilling the duty of national defense at the calling of the country and the Republic of Korea has been protected thanks to them,” Park said. “But the recent series of military scandals has sown mistrust of the military among parents and families who have sent their children for their [compulsory] duty. The grave responsibility to convert this mistrust into trust and confidence lies with you military commanders here.”
Those attendees included Defense Minister Han Min-koo, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, top commanders of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, as well as the chief of the Military Manpower Administration.
As measures to improve the lives of men in their 20s serving compulsory military duty for 24 to 27 months, Defense Minister Han suggested a basic act on military duty that guarantees soldiers’ basic human rights, establishing a human rights system for the military and running a military human rights monitoring team consisting of delegations of soldiers and parents in conjunction with the National Human Rights Commission.
Another suggestions from the ministry was to reward whistleblowers revealing violence and other abuse with money while also introducing a safety net to prevent retaliation against whistleblowers.
The ministry also plans to increase the number of instructors in charge of teaching human rights from the current 250 to 2,000, meaning an average of two instructors for each battalion.
However, this is not the first time the government has come up with plans to clean up abuses among conscripts. Such measures are announced whenever any serious incident occurs, which is every three to six years.
The military came up with a “movement to improve military culture” three years ago and proclaimed a “vision for advanced military culture.” But little has changed.
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