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Reservists’ camp halts shooting drills

The Defense Ministry on Friday announced a package of plans to overhaul flawed reservists’ shooting drills to enhance safety measures following a deadly shooting rampage that left three killed and wounded two Wednesday.

According to the plans, every reservist will be accompanied by instructors during shooting training, who must also check the safety hooks. The ministry will review plans to install surveillance cameras at shooting ranges and bulletproof screens between firing lines. 

Reservists check their targets at an Army shooting range in Daejeon on Friday. (Yonhap)
Reservists check their targets at an Army shooting range in Daejeon on Friday. (Yonhap)

The military said it would consider providing the instructors with firearms, reinforced helmets and bulletproof jackets during shooting practices. It would also consider giving live ammunition to controllers ― a group of officers who supervise shooting trainings ― to control contingency.

Alongside those measures, the ministry said it would suspend shooting practices at the 210th regiment under the 52nd division ― the unit where the shooting incident occurred. In-class marksmanship training will be held instead.

Other reserve training camps, however, will proceed with shooting training as scheduled. Instead, the military will seek other safety options, such as putting instructors on every firing line and bringing in available personnel to assist with reserve training, officials said.

The measure was announced after a 23-year-old reservist opened fire at his colleagues and turned the gun on himself during a shooting session on Wednesday morning.

The reservist, surnamed Choi, had deliberately planned the attack and sent mobile messages hinting at suicide to a friend, the Army said in its interim reports on Thursday.

The incident sparked controversy over military safety, as a safety hook was reportedly not fixed properly at that time, allowing the gunman to turn around and shoot colleagues close to him.

Nine personnel were working as instructors at the site, but none of them stopped the shooting. The three officers and six enlisted soldiers are said to have hidden when the gunman opened fire.

In the meantime, Rep. Yoo Seung-min, floor leader of ruling Saenuri Party, criticized the military for lacking discipline and asked them to halt reserve training and overhaul the training system.

“I am shocked that those nine soldiers just ran away while the gunmen was firing point-blank,” Yoo said. “The military should immediately halt reserve trainings and undertake complete overhaul to address such incidents.”

The military, however, said that an immediate suspension would be difficult to manage, saying that mobilized reserve training is crucial as the number of reserve forces is dwindling.

By Yeo Jun-suk (jasonyeo@heraldcorp.com)
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