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Military adopts new rules against barracks abuse

The military has introduced new rules to block the physical and verbal abuses that are allegedly rampant inside barracks, officials said Tuesday.

The measures came in the wake of a deadly shooting spree by a marine in his barracks early this month.

Under the rules adopted by the Defense Ministry, enlisted soldiers, excluding squad or team leaders, may no longer order or instruct fellow soldiers, and physical, sexual or verbal abuse and ostracizing soldiers are also strictly forbidden.
Medics load a dummy of a Marine corporal onto a gurney in a reenactment of the shootingrampage that took the lives of four marines and injured another on Ganghwa Island, Tuesday. (Yonhap News)
Medics load a dummy of a Marine corporal onto a gurney in a reenactment of the shootingrampage that took the lives of four marines and injured another on Ganghwa Island, Tuesday. (Yonhap News)

The ministry plans to convey a new set of rules, which took effect Tuesday, to soldiers within the week.

Not simply a set of administration guidelines, the new rules are direct orders from the ministry and include three different clauses bound by law. They also clarify the chain of command and the relationship between soldiers.

On July 4, a corporal opened fire at his base on Ganghwa Island near the maritime border with North Korea, killing four soldiers and wounding one. The corporal pointed to a deep-rooted tradition in the corps under which soldiers collectively brand particular soldiers as outcasts and force even junior soldiers to ignore them, on top of harassment by seniors.

Those discovered violating the new official order, or even overlooking such behavior, will be severely reprimanded, and those caught abusing others will be criminally prosecuted.

Officers and non-commissioned officers are also required to immediately report abusive misconduct to the proper chain of command.

“The rules make it clear that enlisted soldiers, except for those who are named as squad or team leaders, are not in a position of order or obedience, but a relation of support for juniors while maintaining respect for seniors,” said a ministry official.

According to Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin on Monday, the use of abuse in the military is a “criminal act that tramples on one’s human rights.”

“Abuses hurt not only their bodies but also their minds. Those who destroy others’ bodies and minds through abusive acts are criminals. I regard them as a criminal act.”

The tragic shooting spree was a blow to the reputation of the 27,000-strong Marine Corps, noted for its successful operations during the 1950-53 Korean War and its dispatch to the Vietnam War in the 1960s.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, military investigators held a reenactment of the shooting at the unit on Ganghwa Island with the accomplice attending.

By Robert Lee (robert@heraldcorp.com)
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