Commando arrested for torture of his juniors

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Commando arrested for torture of his juniors

A special forces commando was arrested for allegedly using an emergency power generator to give electric shocks to his junior officers, the military said yesterday.

A sergeant first class of the 1st Airborne Special Forces Brigade was arrested at the end of last month for the brutal treatment of juniors in the same unit, according to the Army. The Army said he was accused of using the generator to give electric shocks to two staff sergeants on their tongues or lips. The torture took place multiple times from April 2012 until August 2013, the Army said.

The suspect tortured the victims, his immediate juniors in the chain of command, for poor performance.

The emergency generator is a support system for portable communications devices in the military. The suspect had access to the device because he and the victims worked together on the communications team, the Army said.

“We cannot say accurately for how long the electric shock continued, but electricity is generated manually by spinning a handle of the generator, so it would be hard to say it continued for tens of minutes,” said Colonel Choi Yong-han, public affairs division head of the Army.

Choi did not give a precise number of times that the victims were tortured, only saying it took place “several” times.

The arrested officer was also accused of giving beatings to two staff sergeants.

While the two staff sergeants kept quiet for over a year about the electric shocks, they decided to come forward after the Army launched a major investigation into abuses within the military.

The Army received petitions from its service members after a soldier was beaten to death by fellow medics in April. The 22-year-old conscript, identified as Private First Class Yoon, died on April 6 after enduring severe physical abuse and sexual humiliation during his less than four months in the military.

“Starting Aug. 6 to Sept. 4, the Special Warfare Command created a task force and conducted an investigation into abuses in the troops,” said Colonel Choi. “This case was reported and we arrested the suspect. The case was handed over to the military prosecution on Sept. 5, and an investigation is still ongoing.”

Choi said the suspect will be investigated thoroughly and the case will be handled in accordance with the law.

Sources in the military said the peculiar hierarchy and culture of the Special Warfare Command are to be blamed for the latest shocking abuse. All members of the command are officers with ranks of staff sergeant or higher, and the senior officers train their juniors in a one-on-one system similar to an apprenticeship.

“Because your immediate seniors have an absolute power over you, juniors rarely talk about their hardships,” said a military official. “Even if they make a complaint, it often goes ignored.”

The Army denied media speculations that it tried to cover up the incident. Choi said yesterday that the military was wrapping up the probe and the case was handed over to the military prosecutors on the weekend just before the Chuseok holidays, giving them no opportunity to brief the press.

The Special Warfare Command already experienced a deadly incident earlier this month and faced severe criticisms over its disregard for the safety of its soldiers. Two commandos died during captivity survival training and the military admitted at the time that there was no safety manual for the training.

BY YOO SEONG-UN, SER MYO-JA[myoja@joongang.co.kr]



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