The parents of an armed deserter holed up in an east coast hillside near the inter-Korean border after going on a shooting rampage were in talks Monday to persuade him to surrender, military officers said.
After having contacted the fugitive sergeant, identified by his surname Lim, his parents, along with troops, pleaded with him to turn himself in to the military, according to the officers.
"While crying, he asked us to hand over the phone to speak to his father," an Army officer said, requesting anonymity.
"He talked to his parents for several minutes, and they pleaded with him to surrender," the officer added, noting that the parents were staying close to their 22-year-old son.
After a near 20-hour showdown, operations started early Monday to capture the enlisted soldier who fled with a K-2 rifle and about
60 bullets after a shocking shooting spree at his unit of the 22nd Army Division in Goseong, about 220 kilometers northeast of Seoul, which left five soldiers dead and seven others injured.
The wounded soldiers did not sustain life-threatening injuries, according to the defense ministry.
"We are trying to induce changes in his psychological state ... As his parents are trying to make contact at a very close distance, we expect him to change his mind with time," defense ministry spokesperson Kim Min-seok told a regular briefing.
"Now the troops are at very close distance to the soldier, enough for him to catch the phone tossed to him. But they didn't try to detain him by force out of concerns that he might react rashly," he said.
The troops also gave him a piece of bread and some water, while it is unclear if he consumed them or not, according to defense ministry officials.
Earlier in the day, a soldier guarding against Lim mistakenly opened fire at one of his comrades. After sustaining a minor injury, the injured was taken to a nearby hospital.
"Gunshots heard in the day were not from contact with the deserter," a defense ministry officer said. "No exchange of fire between (our side and Lim) took place today."
On Sunday, the authorities evacuated hundreds of residents to safety to nearby school gymnasiums following exchanges of fire between him and the troops. There were no reported civilian casualties.
Shortly after wrapping up his guard duty lasting about six hours on Saturday, the runaway soldier detonated a grenade and fired shots at his eastern front unit.
The motive for the shootings remains unknown, though Lim was on the list of those requiring special attention as he had difficulty in adapting to military life, the Army headquarters said. He was to be discharged in September this year.
As he fired some 10 shots, leaving five dead and some seven wounded, the military suspected that he had aimed at the victims rather than shooting at random.
It is not the first time that an enlisted soldier has attacked his comrades. In 2005, a South Korean Army private set off a hand grenade and opened fire at a unit near the border with North Korea, killing eight sleeping colleagues and wounding two others.
In 2011, a Marine Corps corporal went on a shooting spree at a seaside unit on Ganghwa Island, west of Seoul, killing four soldiers and wounding one.
In South Korea, all able-bodied men are required to carry out compulsory military service for about two years as the country face North Korea across the heavily fortified border. (Yonhap)