Four out of 10 soldiers who committed suicide in the last two years had been on the military’s list of soldiers “requiring special attention,” a report showed Monday.
A total of 83 draftees had taken their own lives in 2012 and 2013, 33 of whom (39.7 percent) were on the watch list, according to military data analysis by Rep. Seo Young-kyo of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy. Of the 33, 32 were from the Army and one was from the Air Force.
The military categorizes enlistees that demand special care into three grades, with “Grade A” being the most vulnerable. These soldiers are identified via a physical examination and interviews with their commanding officers, and include those likely to commit violent acts or suicide, or have physical or interpersonal problems.
These particular soldiers often face discriminatory actions from fellow soldiers and officers.
In June, a “Grade A” Army sergeant went on a shooting spree against his comrades who repeatedly bullied him, killing five and injuring seven. A month later, another “Grade A” private from the same division committed suicide after being abused by his senior colleague.
Seo’s report, however, suggested that some higher-ranking officers have shown little to no effort in trying to prevent such problems.
In 2007, a soldier surnamed Choi was put on the “Grade A” list due to depression and physical illness, but the commander of his unit made no effort to protect him. On the contrary, he gathered his troops and made comments that belittled him, though indirectly. Two weeks later, Choi hanged himself.
Despite the rampant stress-induced accidents, the Defense Ministry has been relatively lax on keeping tabs on vulnerable soldiers, which Seo suspected was an attempt to duck responsibility. The ministry only started compiling the number of suicides among the soldiers on the special attention list in 2012.
By Yoon Min-sik (firstname.lastname@example.org)