It’s all about morale

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It’s all about morale

The Ministry of National Defense said it will fully pay for the hospital expenses of a soldier seriously damaged by the land mine blast along the demilitarized zone attributed to North Korea. Staff Sgt. Ha Jae-hun lost two legs from the explosion. He was transferred to a private hospital from a military one for the complicated surgery. The Veteran’s Pension Act has the state cover medical expenses for a soldier injured while on duty for 30 days when hospitalized in a private hospital. When the public protested after learning that Ha had to pay for the hospital fee from this month, the ministry quickly made an exception to the law.

But the makeshift measure won’t do. Similar cases are bound to happen down the road. One soldier who stepped on a mine last year had to pay about 7 million won ($5,810) for hospital treatment out of his own pocket after his 30 days were over. The government must change the law so that active soldiers can be treated and recover without any financial worries.

It is the state’s obligation to care for a soldier who gets hurt from an accident or attack while on duty, whether he or she is treated in a military or private hospital. The state must be responsible for any sacrifice made by an officer defending the country. On a visit to the hospital room where the maimed soldier was recovering, President Park Geun-hye stressed that it is totally absurd for soldiers to pay for a wound they received while on duty.

Saenuri Party Rep. Han Ki-ho proposed a revision in the law demanding coverage for up to two years of a soldier’s treatment in private medical facilities. The National Assembly must pass the bill immediately so that soldiers can get all the care necessary without further damage to their dignity. This is a matter of pride not just for Korean soldiers, but the entire population.

The government and legislature also must discuss increases in state subsidies for rehabilitation and assistive devices like artificial legs and arms and wheelchairs for injured soldiers.

The Defense Ministry subsidizes these devices up to 10 million won, but the latest technologies cost much more than that, leaving soldiers in the red if they want the best.

The United States assists wounded soldiers for full hospital and rehabilitation costs, as well as assistive devices. The military is all about morale.

JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 7, Page 34

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