Over 20,000 Soldiers Considered at Risk

      July 06, 2011 13:05

      Corporal Kim Min-cheon (19), who shot and killed four fellow marines on Monday, has suffered from symptoms of anxiety, personality disorders and schizophrenia, according to a personality test conducted by the military, prompting officers to place him on special watch, it was revealed on Tuesday.

      The military places soldiers on special watch if they show symptoms of mental problems or have difficulties in adjusting to life as a soldier. It does not reveal the exact number of soldiers who have been on special watch, but over 5 percent of 400,000 Army troops and around 0.8 percent of the 30,000-strong Air Force are estimated to fall into this category.

      The Navy and Marines have different systems of managing such conscripts than the Army and Air Force, making it difficult to assess the exact number of soldiers under special watch.

      "There is no official assessment, but given the number of such conscripts in the Army, there are probably up to 20,000 in the entire military." Soldiers are considered at risk if they have a history of attempting suicide or causing harm, come from broken families, or have problems adjusting to military life. They are classified through personality tests and interviews with their commanders. Their classification is kept confidential.

      Depending on rank, the military requires soldiers on special watch to meet regularly with their superior officers, while those considered to be severe cases are not posted to units handling live ammunition. But a shortage of troops apparently leads to the rules being broken, and Kim ended up at a base on Ganghwa Island that handles live ammunition.

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