The state military manpower agency said Sunday it will strengthen psychological evaluations for potential draftees as part of efforts to weed out those who are unfit for service and better manage its recruits.
All South Korean men are required to go through a physical checkup and psychological evaluation when they turn 19 to determine whether they are eligible for mandatory military service and what duties they should be assigned to.
The move by the Military Manpower Administration (MMA) came in the wake of last month's deadly shooting spree by an Army sergeant that left five dead and seven wounded. The 22-year-old suspect said he went on the rampage after being bullied by his comrades.
Although mental examinations undertaken prior to being drafted and after the shooting found him "normal," a personality test administered during his service put him on a list of troops "requiring special attention." His colleagues and superior officers said he had difficulties adjusting to military life.
Under the envisioned reforms, the agency will double the number of doctors and clinical psychologists in charge of the tests to 10 and 60, respectively, in phases.
The current questionnaire will also be revised if deemed necessary following a review.
Currently, potential draftees take a psychological evaluation involving 183 questions on personality, 58 questions on awareness and five on overall mental status.
Those found to be vulnerable take another test that includes a one-on-one interview with a psychologist. Based upon the results, a doctor finally decides whether he is stable enough to serve.
"The sergeant had a history of undergoing psychotherapy for depression after dropping out of high school, but we failed to secure the data beforehand as getting such a document arbitrarily is impossible under the privacy protection law," an MMA official said.
"We will continue to improve the psychological tests system to help nurture strong troops and to guarantee the well-being of our service personnel," he added.
All able-bodied South Korean men must fulfill mandatory military service for about two years to deter aggression by North Korea.
Facing a reduction in the number of potential draftees due to a rapidly aging population, the government has lowered the bar for service over the past decades, with over 90 percent of potential draftees ordered to serve. (Yonhap)