NATIONAL

Army denies rumors about death of S. Korean solider at DMZ

By Yeo Jun-suk
  • Published : Nov 18, 2018 - 21:57
  • Updated : Nov 19, 2018 - 17:41

In light of rumors about the death of a South Korean solider in a heavily fortified cross-border region last week, the military suggested that the death was an apparent suicide unrelated to the North Korean military. 

In light of rumors about the death of a South Korean solider in the heavily fortified inter-Korean border region last week, the military has suggested the death was an apparent suicide unrelated to the North Korean military. 

According to the Army, a 21-year-old private first class was found dead Friday at a guard post in the eastern section of the Demilitarized Zone. The soldier’s body was found hours after he was sent for night duty to monitor thermal observation devices installed along the DMZ.

On Sunday, the Army said security cameras showed the soldier had walked alone into a restroom after receiving live ammunition at the gate to the guard post. The soldier’s smartphone also showed records of searches for the term “suicide,” the Army added.

“Only one rifle and an empty shell were found inside the restroom,” the Army said in a text message to reporters, suggesting there was no evidence of forced entry or an attack by outsiders.

“After we carried out digital forensics on the soldier’s smartphone stored in his unit, we found there were numerous search records related to suicide on a portal site. Among them were ‘firearm suicide’ and ‘solider suicide.’”

Yonhap


While the military went out of its way to disclose details of the investigation, speculation continues over exactly what happened to the solider found dead in the most dangerous place on the Korean Peninsula.

Since the Korean War ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty, the DMZ has seen minor skirmishes escalating into major conflicts. In 2015, the two Koreas exchanged artillery fire after two South Korean soldiers were maimed by land mines likely buried by North Korea.

Although the military has denied rumors that North Korea was involved in the recent death of the solider, skepticism remains among those critical of President Moon Jae-in’s rapprochement with North Korea.

“How can you be so sure that North Korea was not involved in the death of the solider,” an anonymous citizen said in a comment posted Monday on Cheong Wa Dae’s online petition site, “is it because of the current government’s relationship with North Korea?”

In a statement released hours after the incident, the Army said there was “no connection” with North Korea. The military said there were no unusual activities spotted in North Korea on Friday, when the soldier’s body was found.

The soldier, only identified by his surname Kim, was dispatched in August to the front line to handle thermal observation devices. The Army said he had been deemed mentally fit by the military to serve in the DMZ.

(jasonyeo@heraldcorp.com)