Cop in Jongno allegedly takes his own lifeA police officer was discovered dead on the rooftop of a police station in Jongno District, central Seoul, apparently a suicide.
Police said the 58-year-old officer, whose identity was not disclosed, used a gun to take his own life at around 7:20 p.m. Sunday on the rooftop of the Shinmun-ro police station.
The shot was heard by a colleague, who rushed to help the officer. However, the officer died at the scene, according to police.
No suicide note was found.
Although the officer usually worked at an emergency response center taking care of inebriated individuals in need of assistance, he was transferred to the Shinmun-ro police station, which is part of the Jongno Police Precinct, after the Covid-19 pandemic began.
Following the transfer, his duties included coordinating police operations related to suspected Covid-19 cases with a medical center dedicated to treating and preventing the spread of the virus.
Homicides or suicides involving the use of firearms is exceedingly rare in Korea, with the country reporting a total of three gun deaths and eight gun-related injuries in 2017, the last year that the National Police Agency reported firearm-related accident data.
While gun-related accidents or violence in the military or police were common in the 70s and 80s, tightened gun regulations and state-led gun confiscation operations in the 1970s led to a decrease in civilian gun violence.
Gun ownership in South Korea today is regulated by the Act on the Safety Management of Guns, Swords, Explosives, etc., which requires all privately-owned guns be stored at local police stations and their owners regularly renew permits for their possession.
Police ownership and use of guns is also subject to tight regulation, with only officers above a certain rank permitted to carry a firearm on duty.
Officers’ guns are not fully loaded, with the first chamber in the barrel being left empty, the second carrying a blank cartridge, and only the third chamber filled with an actual bullet.
However, the gun safety regulations have not prevented almost annual suicides of police officers using their firearms.
Sunday’s suicide comes nine months after an officer in Jincheon, North Chungcheong took his life using his gun.
In April 2020, a police officer in Yeongdong, North Chungcheong took his life, also using his gun.
The suicides have led to increased calls for a system to look after the mental health of police officers, who can come under extreme stress in the course of their duties.
Police are currently investigating the exact details and motives behind the latest alleged suicide.
BY MICHAEL LEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]