Back To Top

PM pledges to abolish assignment of soldiers to commanders' residences

The government announced Thursday it will abolish the assignment of soldiers to the official residences of commanders in an effort to eradicate the possibility of mistreatment of such staff.

A total of 122 soldiers currently carrying out such duties will be re-assigned to combat units by the end of October, the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement. Fifty-nine soldiers currently assigned to military tennis courts and golf courses will also be withdrawn, it said.

The measures came after public uproar flared earlier this month in the wake of revelations that a four-star Army general and his wife treated soldiers assigned to care for their residence like slaves. The couple has since been under criminal investigation.

Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon speaks during a government policy coordination meeting on Aug. 31, 2017. (Yonhap)
Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon speaks during a government policy coordination meeting on Aug. 31, 2017. (Yonhap)

The case added to a series of similar cases in which those in powerful positions unfairly treated subordinates or others who had no choice but to follow their orders, including verbal abuse by a local pharmaceutical firm chief against his chauffeurs.

Earlier this month, the Prime Minister's Office ordered a governmentwide inspection of such practices, known as "gapjil" in Korean, to see if senior officials mistreat staff at official residences, diplomatic missions and secretaries' offices.

On Thursday, the office said that the inspection looked into a total of 6,282 people at central government offices and diplomatic missions abroad deemed vulnerable to mistreatment, including chefs assigned to ambassadors' residences and administrative staff at diplomatic missions.

During the inspection, a total of 57 cases of gapjil or mistreatment have been uncovered involving staff at the Defense Ministry, the foreign ministry, the culture ministry and the National Police Agency, the office said.

Examples included punching a soldier on driving duties, having a soldier do graduate school homework on behalf of his commander, imposing a curfew for embassy chefs, and using official cars and drivers for private purposes.

As part of corrective measures, the government has already pulled all 12 police staff out of the residences of commanding officers. In addition, a total of 346 police staff that exclusively drove cars for senior police officials will also be withdrawn, it said.

The government also said it will strengthen educational sessions for senior officials and revise regulations and codes of conduct to make sure such mistreatment won't happen again, while making it easier for such staff to report cases and conducting regular inspections.

Prime Minister Lee said the government will take stern measures against violators.

"Going forward, the government will reform systems and practices with a determination to boldly cut out what should be removed even if it comes with pain," Lee said. "We will get rid of causes of problems, including abolishing the system of residence soldiers." (Yonhap)