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5 soldiers killed, 7 injured in border unit shooting rampage

Deserter and troops caught in firefight

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Published : 2014-06-22 21:01
Updated : 2014-06-22 21:14

Five soldiers were killed and seven others wounded Saturday after a sergeant went on a shooting rampage in his unit near the inter-Korean border, the Defense Ministry said Sunday.

As of 6 p.m. Sunday, the 22-year-old sergeant, identified only by his surname Lim, opened fire at troops trying to capture him north of the Civilian Access Control Line near the border. A platoon leader suffered gunshot wounds during the firefight.

Lim ran away with a K-2 rifle and about 60 bullets after the shooting spree in the unit of the 22nd Army Division in Goseong, Gangwon Province on Saturday. 

According to the ministry, Lim detonated one grenade at around 8:15 p.m. and fired about 10 shots in and outside his barracks after conducting vigilance duty at a general outpost from 2 p.m. for nearly six hours on Saturday. The motives behind his shooting were not immediately known pending an investigation into the deadly incident.

“After detonating a grenade, he (Lim) fired shots toward the barracks, killing three soldiers, and then he entered the hall of the barracks, killing two inside the barracks,” ministry spokesperson Kim Min-seok told reporters.

“We are deeply sorry to the people for causing concerns. We pray for the sacrificed soldiers and extend our condolences to the bereaved families, and will do our best to support them.”
Armed troops keep a watch on the rooftop of a civilian house as a sergeant, who killed five soldiers and wounded seven others in a shooting rampage Saturday, engaged in a firefight in Goseong, Gangwon Province, Sunday. (Yonhap)

Two of the seven wounded soldiers were immediately transported by helicopter to a military hospital in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, and a civilian hospital in Gangneung, Gangwon Province on Saturday night. The two received emergency surgery and are now in stable condition.

The rest suffered minor injuries. Among the wounded were twin brothers who opted to join the unit together to fulfil their military duty.

Immediately after Lim ran away, the 22nd Division raised its vigilance level to the highest to prevent him from defecting to the North. The military also directed civilians in the vicinity of the unit to remain at home and report to it should they happen to find the deserter.

The military also deployed several helicopters and special commandos to capture Lim.

The ministry set up an investigative team consisting of 48 military officers to find out about the motives behind his shooting. The team is currently gathering statements from Lim’s colleagues and bereaved families.

In a personality test in April 2013 to verify whether he was mentally fit for frontline service, Lim was classified as a “Grade-A” soldier that needed “special attention” and was unfit for duty at a general outpost.

But in another test in November that year, he was classified as a “Grade-B” soldier who still needed attention, but was able to carry out the GOP mission. He then began his frontline mission the next month. Lim took another personality test in March this year and was evaluated as having no special problem for the mission.

Draftees requiring special attention are classified in three grades with “Grade A” being the worst case. They include those who could become violent or attempt suicide; have interpersonal problems; or are physically weak.

Some observers said that the shooting underscored the mental distress of those who conduct GOP missions. An Army soldier usually spends up to one year carrying out the mission in a small, remote observation spot for many hours each day.

But critics argued that it was hard to understand that the military had allowed a soldier, once classified as being mentally unfit for border control, to carry out the duty with explosive devices on a daily basis.

Lim joined the Army in December 2012 and was to be discharged in September this year.

The incident is the worst case since June 2005, when a soldier went on a shooting rampage and detonated a grenade, leaving eight people dead and two seriously wounded.

By Song Sang-ho (sshluck@heraldcorp.com)

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