NATIONAL

Military leaders discuss soldiers' human rights amid public anger

By Catherine Chung
  • Published : Aug 7, 2017 - 11:30
  • Updated : Aug 7, 2017 - 11:32
South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo convened an emergency meeting Monday with top commanders to find ways to improve the service conditions of the nation's conscripts, mostly in their 20s.

It came amid a public uproar about the allegations that Gen. Park Chan-ju, commanding general of the Army's 2nd Operational Command, and his wife have long violated the human rights of soldiers assigned to serve at his official residence.

"Unless the human rights of troops are protected, the people won't trust our military," Song said at the start of the session, according to his ministry.

Attendees included Gen. Lee Sun-jin, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Gen. Leem Ho-young, deputy commander of the South Korea-US Combined Forces Korea; and commanding generals of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force.

Defense Minister Song Young-moo speaks to new soldiers at the training camp of the Army's 28th Division in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, in this undated file photo provided by his ministry. (Yonhap)

The minister called for measures to improve the system to manage "housekeeping" soldiers and other service members working at military amenities nationwide.

Park and his wife are accused of having treated several soldiers like slaves.
They were forced to do household chores under inhumane conditions, including wearing electronic bracelets that vibrated when they were called to do services, such as laundry for the commander's son, according to multiple complaints confirmed by the defense ministry's probe.

An entrance to South Korea`s defense ministry compound in Seoul (Yonhap)

Military prosecutors are looking into the case.

They called in Park's wife, identified only by her surname Jeon, for questioning earlier Monday before summoning the four-star general with the ministerial status.

"I am sorry for hurting them, although I treated them as if they were my sons," she told reporters, appearing at the military prosecutors' office.

All able-bodied South Korean men are obliged to serve in the armed forces for 21 months. A sergeant gets paid only 216,000 won ($191) a month. (Yonhap)