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Minister Kim apologizes for latest military accidents

Defense Minister Kim Tae-young apologized for causing concerns in the wake of a series of fatalities in three military accidents that occurred over the last two weeks, his spokesman said Thursday.

“Minister Kim made the apology and called on the Ministry of National Defense and each military branch to draw up measures to prevent a recurrence,” MND spokesman Won Tae-jae said during a daily press briefing.

“While expressing serious regret over the accidents during a meeting of senior ministry officials, he instructed officials to craft practical safety measures.”

His apology came a day after an Army boat carrying eight soldiers capsized during a river-crossing exercise on the Namhan River in Yeoju, Gyeonggi Province, leaving at least three soldiers dead.

The incident came after two other military accidents, which prompted public calls for the military to be more cautious to ensure the safety of soldiers.

A naval patrol ship collided with a fishing boat in waters off the southern island of Jeju on Nov. 10, leaving one seaman dead and two others missing.

Two pilots of an RF4C surveillance aircraft were killed Nov. 12, after their 40-year-old plane crashed into a mountain near Imsil, North Jeolla Province, during a routine training mission.

The Army set up a taskforce consisting of 27 investigators to verify the exact cause for the Wednesday capsizing. Army officials said that the reason for the incident will be verified after they finish the on-site investigation.

After the boat capsized, the three dead soldiers drifted about 500-1,000 meters away from the scene, sources said.

There was another boat operating near the scene of the accident, but it could not be immediately sent there to rescue the soldiers as it was more than one kilometer away, Army officials said.

The military is carrying out an intensive investigation to ascertain the causes of each of the accidents.

By Song Sang-ho (