The Defense Ministry said Sunday that it would establish a consultative committee on human rights and appoint human rights educators at battalions and higher-level field units amid mounting criticism over a high-profile military abuse case.
Officials said that the ministry is set to conduct a full-scale revision of the military directives concerning human rights to push for these plans. The moves appeared aimed at shoring up public trust that has been eroded following a recent series of violence cases involving military draftees.
The ministry plans to have its top legal official chair the envisioned human rights committee. Legal chiefs and human rights officials of the Army, Navy and Air Force, as well as civilian experts, are also to join the committee.
The human rights educators will hold educational sessions ― divided according to ranks ― on a regular basis to warn against any physical and mental violence at barracks. Under the plan, draftees are to attend 11 sessions for a total of nine hours before the end of their service.
The ministry also plans to have military attorneys of division- and higher-level units serve as human rights counselors in efforts to more rapidly provide counseling to potential victims. It also seeks to strengthen coordination among all human-rights related bodies in the military to more effectively prevent abuse cases.
Meanwhile, ministry data showed that nearly 40,000 soldiers were discharged each year before completing their service terms after they were assessed as unfit for active duty.
According to the data that Rep. Seo Young-kyo of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy received from the ministry, 4,269 soldiers were discharged in 2011 after being classified as unfit for military service, while 3,632 soldiers and 3,813 soldiers were discharged in 2012 and last year, respectively.
By Song Sang-ho (firstname.lastname@example.org)