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Netflix series shows S. Korean soldiers still face abuse: NK

Netflix’s "D.P." (Courtesy of Netflix)
Enlisted soldiers in South Korea still have to deal with abuse and violent crimes, North Korea’s propaganda outlet, Meari, said Saturday, referring to Netflix’s Korean thriller “D.P.”

The Deserter Pursuit team, made up of rank and file soldiers, depicts some of the physical and psychological abuse that take place on the team and within the military in general.

All able-bodied South Korean serve active duty as conscripts for at least 18 months. The military runs a separate DP team, but only the Army and Air Force allow enlisted soldiers on the team, which is reserved for officers in the Navy and Marine Corps.

“South Korean conscripts have no choice but to go AWOL because they are abused. The series is a demonstration of a waning discipline, rampant abuse and corruption,” Meari said, adding the series is different in that it actually shows why soldiers choose to abandon their service.

The series depicts a combative relationship that binds soldiers on the DP team, who find themselves trapped in every day bullying and hazing, while constantly looking for deserters, who are usually fellow soldiers. A culture of abuse has been a fact of life for many South Korean soldiers.

This week, the military said soldiers will be banned from joining the DP team starting in July next year, noting the decision had been made much earlier but was just announced recently because of legislative work along the way.

The military described the series as potentially misleading, with the defense minister saying writers have dramatized some events. But he noted he would heed concerns to build a culture that better respects soldiers’ rights, referring to ongoing efforts led by a panel of experts.

The civilian-led advisory panel has been working on military reform since late June, after an Air Force suicide led to public outcry demanding the military boost civilian oversight. The victim’s family claims their daughter had been sexually assaulted but cover-ups led to the death.

Kim Bo-tong, a webtoon writer whose story inspired “D.P.,” said the series was a reflection of his experience as a DP team member. He said he had seen a culture of abuse going unnoticed. Kim, who uses a penname, said there is more room for improvement when dealing with human rights issues in the military.

But the military is still seen as reluctant to follow through its commitment to transparency in dealing with crimes taking place inside the military. It is accused of bypassing the advisory panel not to get its entire jurisdiction handed over to civilian courts.

It is also seen as dragging its feet on bringing aboard an independent human rights commissioner to overlook its rights complaints. An outside arbiter, however fair and impartial, could demoralize commanders, the military said.

By Choi Si-young (