The Defense Ministry said Sunday that it would allow draftees to receive visits by their girlfriends or families on weekdays from this month and use their unit cellphones on a trial basis, as it strives to improve what critics call the closed, rigid military culture.
“We declare September as the month for the beginning of an open, trustworthy military culture. From Sept. 1, we will implement a series of measures put forward by the special panel tasked with improving the military culture,” said the ministry in a press release.
The military had allowed draftees to meet visitors only on weekends or holidays. But they will not be able to receive visitors on weekdays after their daily work is over.
The soldiers at frontline units will be allowed to receive visitors only on weekends due to their security duty, officials said. Those in charge of border defense had not been allowed to meet visitors.
The military will also test-run a system in which it would offer unit cellphones to be shared among soldiers with the same ranks, officials said.
Last month, the Defense Ministry established a panel to reform the military culture in the wake of a series of hazing and abuse cases, some of which led to suicide and even a shooting spree. It is comprised of civilian experts, government officials, draftees and parents of enlisted soldiers.
Last Monday, the panel held its first plenary session and picked four tasks that it said should be immediately implemented. They included ensuring 24-hour communication between draftees and parents, allowing soldiers to meet visitors on weekdays and making sure that soldiers freely choose the days for their allotted leave of absence.
By Song Sang-ho (firstname.lastname@example.org)