Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin apologized Friday over last week's shooting spree by an enlisted soldier who killed five of his comrades, and vowed to come up with fundamental preventive measures.
"I sincerely apologize to the people and the bereaved families for such a regretful incident in the eastern front-line general outpost that killed five and wounded seven," Kim said in a statement to the public.
Expressing deep condolences to the fallen soldiers, the defense chief said he will "strive to help the wounded recover early and to support the families of the victims," he added.
On Saturday, the 22-year-old sergeant, identified only by his family name Lim, detonated a grenade and went on a shooting rampage at his unit of the 22nd Army Division in the inter-Korean border town of Goseong, some 240 kilometers east of Seoul, and fled.
Two days after the desertion, he was captured by troops right after a botched suicide attempt. After undergoing surgery, he is now in stable condition.
What prompted him, who was to be discharged in September this year, to do such an action is yet to be known, though officials say he had a hard time adjusting to military life. He was also on the list of soldiers requiring special attention.
With an investigation into the suspect under way, the defense chief drew strong resistance from the bereaved families after he told the parliament that bullying does exist in barracks, and the military is looking into if it is the only reason behind the case.
"The five soldiers died while carrying out their solemn military duty. I feel sorry that I hurt the hearts of the bereaved families by causing a misunderstanding that bullying is the motive for the crime," Kim said in the statement read by Vice Defense Minister Baek Seung-joo.
"We will thoroughly bring the truth to light in order not to damage the victims' reputation and seek fundamental measures to prevent a recurrence." (Yonhap)