2 soldiers in same unit die in apparent suicides

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2 soldiers in same unit die in apparent suicides

A South Korean soldier discovered Friday with what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head has died, the military said, just two days after another man in the same unit was found dead in an apparent suicide.

The sergeant first class from an Army unit in Yeoncheon was discovered injured at 10 a.m. near Yeoncheon County, Gyeonggi, after having left his post at the civilian control line, an Army official said.

The noncommissioned soldier, 27, only known by his surname Hong, was found by fellow soldiers and immediately transferred by helicopter to a military hospital for treatment.

“It appears he tried to commit suicide by shooting himself in the face,” a military official said.

The man was determined to have used a K2 assault rifle that contained about 10 rounds.

The military initially said that the sergeant’s life was not in danger. Officials later confirmed that he had died at 11:30 a.m. at the hospital.

His death leaves questions regarding his reasons for taking his own life that will be difficult to answer.

The Army said it will open an investigation into Hong’s “exact motivations,” and begin questioning the soldiers in his unit. The sergeant first class was reported to have joined the unit one year ago. No suicide note has yet been found.

Initial reports said that an armed soldier had deserted the unit, though according to a military official, Hong’s abandonment of his post at the GOP, or general outpost, was not considered desertion, but straying.

On Wednesday at around 6 p.m, a 37-year-old Army major surnamed Oh, from the same unit as Hong, was found dead from a single gunshot wound to the head in the driver’s seat of a military vehicle parked on the side of a road in the civilian control zone in Daegwang-ri, Sinseo-myeon in Yeoncheon.

He appeared to have completed his patrol and been driving back to the unit. His gun lay next to his body and there was no suicide note at the scene.

An investigation is underway. Military officials said there appear to be no links so far between their deaths.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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