Military court sentences six in Army abuse case

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Military court sentences six in Army abuse case

A military court yesterday sentenced an Army sergeant to 45 years in prison for spearheading the systematic abuse of a young conscript, who died in April after months of torture.

The ruling by the Army’s General Military Court in Youngin, Gyeonggi, was handed down after military prosecutors asked that the sergeant, surnamed Lee, be charged for the murder of Private First Class Yoon, his junior comrade.

Prosecutors overturned the original charge of manslaughter to murder, taking into consideration the sergeant’s long-time assaults on Yoon and the public’s outrage over a vicious military culture.

Yoon died on April 6 after he was transported to Seoul St. Mary’s hospital from his military barracks, where he lost consciousness.

Investigation revealed that Private Yoon had been approached and was beaten by six of his comrades, including Sergeant Lee, while he was eating. According to the Army, the private died from asphyxiation, after the assault caused a piece of food to obstruct his airway.

He was also found to have suffered from repeated abuse, primarily from major traumas to his skeletal muscle and secondary shocks from prolonged violence.

Subsequent investigation revealed that Yoon had been the target of constant physical abuse and sexual humiliation since he started his service in the 28th Infantry Division in March as a medical officer.

According to the written prosecution, Sergeant Lee assaulted Private Yoon 24 times and inflicted other cruel punishments.

The five other soldiers charged in Yoo’s death were also handed sentences yesterday. The court sentenced one sergeant, surnamed Ha, to 30 years in prison; two corporals, surnamed Lee and Ki, to 25 years; one staff sergeant to 15 years in prison; and one private first class, surnamed Lee, was sentenced to three months in prison with six months of probation.

“It is inevitable that severe punishments be handed down to them for what they have done, which constitutes a homicide,” the court’s chief judge said.

The court’s ruling was more lenient than what the prosecutors had demanded, with the exception of the staff sergeant, who the prosecution originally wanted to put away for 10 years. “It is not possible to determine whether the criminals had a willful intention to kill the victim,” the court said.

The case struck a chord with the general public because all able-bodied Korean men between the ages of 18 and 35 are required to complete compulsory military service.


By PARK YUNA [ypc3c@joongang.co.kr]

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