Military abuse case is igniting public wrath

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Military abuse case is igniting public wrath

After a storm of public anger caused by a failed attempt to detain an army lieutenant who was charged with the physical and verbal abuse of two lower ranks, the prosecution said Tuesday it would re-file a detention warrant in light of the “gravity of the issue.”

Military prosecutors did not mention exactly when they would make a second attempt but said the time will come after they investigate “several matters.”

The announcement comes one day after a military court rejected the warrant, citing a low possibility that the suspect would escape or destroy any evidence. It also mentioned that the suspect acknowledged his wrongdoings and has repented.

Noting that the rejection is not equivalent to an acquittal, the court added it would punish him if deemed appropriate after further investigation.

In the latest case of physical assault in Korea’s military circle, a lieutenant in the eastern frontline has been accused of assaulting a corporal last year from March to July by pushing him, shouting expletives at him and encouraging other ranks in the unit to bully him.

The relationship came under attention when the corporal called a help center run by the Ministry of National Defense intended to help conscripts cope with various struggles during duty. A recent psychology test showed that the victim was developing a mental disorder, and state military sources said that this was probably due to trauma.

The army eventually relocated him to a different unit in March.

It was later revealed during an investigation that the suspect had targeted another corporal in 2014 by tying his hands and feet with cable ties and forcing him to maintain a push-up position while he poured cold water on the corporal and hurled insults at him.

Military sources say the suspect has, so far, acknowledged “some” of the charges. Under domestic law, he can face up to five years in prison for the wrongful exercise of authority.

Moon Sang-gyun, spokesman of the Defense Ministry, said authorities would implement “necessary measures” after investigations results are revealed.

Korea’s military has a dark history of torture among different ranks. The most pivotal case in recent years was when a 27-year-old sergeant was found in 2014 to have played a key role in abusing a private first class to such a degree that he ultimately died from the beating, an incident that plunged the entire nation into shock.

The public questioned whether military authorities took any care looking after the country’s young men when they are conscripted into military service, leading the minister to launch a taskforce last December that promotes the founding of a “developed military culture,” and vow to strongly punish anyone who acts against the military spirit of camaraderie.

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