Reports of abuse in barracks surge

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Reports of abuse in barracks surge

The Korean Army is stringently investigating a series of cruel, sometimes bizarre, abuse cases in the barracks that came to light following recent revelations surrounding the abrupt death in April of a young conscript, the result of systematic beatings.

“Following a close examination of the Army units, through surveys and by questioning, a number of allegations of cruel treatment and sexual harassment have been verified, and we are preparing to respond to them,” Lee Bung-woo, the Army’s public relations chief, told reporters yesterday.

The Army added that it is currently looking into 10 reported cases of abuse in the barracks.

In Hwacheon County, Gangwon, three privates stand accused of sexually harassing seven younger conscripted soldiers on more than 30 occasions between April and May, licking the nape of their necks, biting their ears and kissing their cheeks.

An Army corporal in a division based in Pocheon, Gyeonggi, is also alleged to have inflicted cruel punishments on his subordinates. He is accused of jabbing two subordinates with his bayonet in May for not completing their tasks properly, and even catching flies with his bare hands and cramming them into their mouths.

In another case, in a division in Namyangju, Gyeonggi, military police are investigating a sergeant first class for allegedly handcuffing soldiers and beating them, choking them with safety belts, and carrying out other kinds of physical and verbal abuse. The sergeant reportedly claimed that his actions were just in good humor.

The investigations into those cases were sparked by the death more than four months ago of a 23-year-old Army private, only identified as Yun, which was revealed on July 31 to have been the result of repeated beatings and sexual humiliation by his superiors in the 28th Infantry Division.

According to the Army, the number of reports of abuse detailed to the military hotline has increased by 26 percent since July, when Yun’s case went public.

Between Aug. 1 and Tuesday, the hotline received 758 reports. There were apparently numerous reported cases of sexual molestation and misconduct - Army superiors touching subordinates’ genitals and buttocks, for example.

A staff sergeant in a unit in Chunchon, Gangwon, was accused of beating and sexually molesting subordinates numerous times since January and drawing pictures of genitals on their thighs with a highlighter. He claimed it was a punishment for being too slow.

Other reported cases include a staff sergeant in another Hwacheon unit who is alleged to have sexually harassed a corporal over nine months from August 2013 and shot five rounds of blanks at a senior colleague.

“Special measures will be taken to immediately dissolve Army units that are found to have consistent records of human rights violation, or units that try to conceal [abuse],” Army Chief of Staff Kim Yo-hwan said yesterday.

He added that military units with repeated cases of abuse would be disbanded and their entire staffs transferred as the latest measure toward overhauling military culture.


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