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South Korea counters North Korea's criticism of soldier death

South Korean officials accused North Korea of being hypocritical on Tuesday, responding to Pyongyang's condemnation of the South's military over the death of a bullied young Army conscript.

The 23-year-old Army private first class died in April after allegedly being hit in the chest by his colleagues at their barracks while eating snacks, which led a chunk of food to get stuck in his airway.

The private, identified only by his surname Yoon, was found to have suffered chronic bullying. The incident was belatedly disclosed last week, sending shock waves throughout South Korea.

In a Tuesday commentary, the North's main newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, argued it reveals the "true appearance of the extremely corrupt puppet army."

"The puppet authorities are entirely to blame for turning the puppet army into a den of rabid dogs," said the newspaper, an organ of the powerful Workers' Party. "The puppet army has thus positively encouraged curses and beating in a bid to turn soldiers into slaves blindly obeying the orders of superiors, not human beings using their own brains."

It went on to cite repeated shooting sprees and suicides in the South's military barracks.

In response to the North's criticism, government officials here admitted the country's military certainly needs internal reform.

But it's absurd for the North to denounce the South, they pointed out.

"We know that there is corruption and malpractice prevalent in the North Korean military. I don't think it's appropriate for the North to blame the South as if it were clean, although our military should address its problem," an official at the unification ministry told reporters on background. (Yonhap)

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