June 19, 2005 13:09
A 22-year-old private went on a deadly rampage at a front-line guard post on Sunday, killing eight comrades and seriously wounding two, apparently driven out of his mind by bullying at the hands of a fellow serviceman. The Army said the soldiers were killed and wounded at the guard post in Yeoncheon, Gyeonggi Province that secures the central portion of the border with North Korea. The eight soldiers, including 26-year-old platoon leader Capt. Kim Jong-myeong, died on the spot, while the two others are being treated in a nearby hospital for wounds to the abdomen and legs.
The shooter, Kim Dong-min, told Army investigators he had been suffering constant verbal abuse and harassment from a senior fellow soldier. He entered the barracks during his shift at 2:30 a.m. When he saw the face of his sleeping tormentor, he flew into a rage and threw a grenade his way, the Army quoted him as saying.
The explosion killed five soldiers and woke up the rest of the 25 sleeping in the barracks, who went into screaming confusion when they saw their bleeding comrades. Kim then picked up a K-1 assault rifle and fired 40 shots that killed another two including the captain, who was in the gym. Kim then moved on to the community kitchen where he shot Corporal Lee Geon-uk. Lee later succumbed to his injuries in hospital.
Army investigators are now sifting through the wreckage of the deadliest incident in the force since 2000. “We take responsibility for the incident and sincerely apologize to the people,” the Army said. “We grieve for the dead and their families as well as for the injured and their families, and we express our deepest condolences.”
The tragedy is particularly alarming because it happened in the DMZ right under the eyes of the North Korean military, where the strictest military discipline is vital. Some blame the incident on a climate where brutal hazing of new recruits continues to be tolerated, even though many among the new generation of recruits, as only sons with an indulgent upbringing, cannot cope with verbal abuse, let alone beatings. Experts draw attention to a survey revealing that 8,017 recruits failed to adjust to army life over the last year, including some 1,000 who were suicide risks. The men underwent psychological treatment and other educational programs.
“This isn’t a matter you can solve by reprimanding a couple of supervising officers,” said Kim Jong-du, the head of the Korea National Defense University Leadership Center. “We need to modernize military discipline from the roots up.”
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