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News Analysis: Shooting accident discloses maladjusted S. Korean soldiers

English.news.cn   2014-06-24 08:56:56

By Yoo Seungki

SEOUL, June 24 (Xinhua) -- A runaway South Korean Army sergeant, who killed five comrades in a shooting spree Saturday night, was captured alive on Monday afternoon after some 20 hours of standoff with trailing soldiers.

The enlisted soldier, identified only by his surname Lim, attempted to commit suicide when his father and brother were persuading him to surrender. Lim fired shots at his own body between his left shoulder and chest, but is recovering after an emergency surgery.

The motive for the shooting rampage remained unknown. The conscript, who is originally set to be discharged in September, will be sent to the Army investigation headquarters for its probe into the case after recovery.

After returning to the barrack from his six-hour guard duty, Lim fired some 10 shots at fellow soldiers, killing five and injuring seven others. Given the small number of bullets used for the casualties, he was suspected of aiming at the victims rather than shooting at random.

Breaking through the siege and marching around 10 km to the eastern region from the scene, Lim fired an aimed shot at one platoon commander, resulting in a bullet wound in his arm.

Some military experts said the 10-km march in a mountainous area during nighttime can be seen as superhuman as Lim is a draftee who receives no special trainings for infiltration like the special forces. The incident occurred in Goseong, a border town some 220 km northeast of Seoul.

What led him to display superhuman powers? What led him to such a fury that he fires aimed shots at comrades, with whom he sleep and eat together and carry out the military service together.

One of the answers could be found in lax management of soldiers who require special attention to their failure in adapting to the military life.

The military introduced the so-called"custody soldier"system after eight were killed in a shooting spree accident in 2005. It was designed to help"custody soldiers"adapt to the military duty by paying special attentions.

Lim was also categorized as the custody soldier. A Marine Corps corporal, who opened fire and killed four in 2011, was on the list of custody soldiers.

Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said Monday that the 22nd Infantry Division alone, into which Lim is enlisted, had about 1,800 custody soldiers and the figure accounted for 20 percent of the total troops. He said all the Army divisions had the similar percentage of such soldiers.

Lack of the draftee pool could be picked as another reason for such shooting incident. The military requires some 250,000 young men every year to operate the Army composed of some 35 infantry divisions. The conscript pool is estimated at about 300,000 per year, being very tight to fill up manpower shortage.

In a personality test conducted last April, Lim was categorized as the "Grade-A" custody soldier who is unsuitable to serve sentry at a general outpost (GOP) in the Demilitarized zone, but six months later he was allowed to serve the guard duty in the 22nd Infantry Division which has the longest range of sentry among frontline units.

The draftee shortage and the long coverage made the 22nd Infantry Division a"tomb of division commanders"as many former commanders and high-ranking officers of the division were dismissed after several accidents.

Lack of compensation for the military duty made the"compulsory" military obligation"stifling."

In South Korea, all able-bodied men in their 20s must carry out military service for at least 21 months, but they are given little compensations for defending their country at a pinnacle of their lives.

The extra point system, adopted to provide extra points for those discharged from the military in state-authorized tests, was found unconstitutional as it would be unfair for women. Male job seekers were not allowed to have any advantages due to their military duty.

A social atmosphere became prevalent in South Korea that serving the military is a waste of time. Those willing to adapt to the military life is expected to reduce further, and the number of custody soldiers may grow down the road.

Editor: Shen Qing
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