At a press conference, the Ministry of National Defense revealed that most of the allegations against Gen. Park Chan-ju, chief of 2nd Operational Command, and his wife were valid, including one that he made the so-called “housekeeping soldiers” wear electronic bracelets so they could be reached whenever needed.
It also found human rights infringements and abusive treatment, mostly by Park’s wife, such as insulting the soldiers’ parents, hurling food at the soldiers and having them retrive golf balls while the general practiced.
“Our preliminary query has found most of the allegations to be valid, although they are some conflicting statements from the Parks and the soldiers,” said Defense Ministry spokesman Moon Sang-gyun.
|Defense Ministry spokesperson Moon Sang-gyun. Yonhap|
The announcement came amid mounting public outcry over enlisted soldiers who are assigned to manage commanding officers’ household duties.
The Center for Military Human Rights Korea, a local human rights watchdog, said last week that Park’s housekeeping soldiers had been treated like “slaves,” revealing that they had to wear electronic bracelets, attend church services and even clean up his wife’s toenail clippings and dead skin cells.
On Thursday, the center also revealed that one of the soldiers attempted suicide due to the harsh treatment.
“At that time, Park’s aide-de-camp found the soldier and prevented him from committing suicide. Fortunately, he didn’t take his own life, but the Parks decided to send him to another unit and continued abusing the remaining soldiers, the center said in a statement.
However, the ministry said further investigation is needed to confirm whether the general’s family is to blame for the soldier’s suicide attempt.
Park, who tendered his resignation Tuesday, sent one of the soldiers to the Demilitarized Zone along the border between the two Koreas for patrol duty, after he was caught trying to run away. The general demanded the soldiers to show the same respect that they showed him to his wife, describing her as a “brigadier-general level” military officer.
The dispatch to the DMZ was not a personal punishment, but was part of a routine training program to foster soldiers’ combat readiness, the general said.
Faced with mounting criticism, the Army on Friday vowed to look into how other housekeeping soldiers are treated. A 20-member team will lead the inspection for a week.
There are about 100 housekeeping soldiers serving in the Army and another 100 serving at the Navy and the Air Force.
Most of the housekeeping soldiers are recruited when they get promoted to the upper rank for the first time, which usually comes after serving more than six months. They are often handpicked by the commander’s executive officers or aide-de-camp, and selected from among the high-educated enlisted.
By Yeo Jun-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org)