EDITING : 2017.3.20 월 16:45
The Gachon Herald
Soldiers protecting the country are dangerous.Continuous tragedies in the military. Can’t we prevent them?
Kim Yu-Mi  |  yumi1724@naver.com
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Updated : 2015.09.11  20:09:00
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  In recent years Korea has been in a state of confusion. Korea has trembled with fear after encountering incessant tragedies, various accidents, and epidemics that don’t have any known treatment. Last year, one soldier’s shooting murder shocked the whole nation. The pitiable truth is that this was not the first case and probably not the last. Private 1st Class Yun was killed by his predecessors’ harsh treatment; Sergeant Lim killed other soldiers and deserted after having been shunted aside; Corporal Lee committed suicide on the day he was discharged because he had been severely treated during his army service; and a firearm accident of a reservist. There has been so many military-related incidents that many people are concerned about our young soldiers. Why do people continue to harass and kill each other in the army? Doesn’t the army exist to protect the country and its people?

The meaning of the military.
  First, we have to understand the meaning of national security. National security is to exclude internal and external military and non-military threats, prevent expected threats, and cope with every abrupt situation properly by synthetically employing military, politics, diplomacy and other methods for national goals. But now, the government and the nation are focused on economic growth, thinking only of how we can be more affluent. When the territory and the nation are in danger and the state is likely to be disorganized, what is the use of growth? Protecting the country should not be ignored for any reason, but should be preferentially considered. Therefore, military security is the most essential factor among national security. The military is a very important organization that protects the country from outside military threats. Soldiers, the members of military, have the duty of protecting the nation. Soldiers who fulfill military duties for about 2 years must be respected socially. Also, the government should not make the two years of mandatory military service meaningless, but should ensure the safety of our soldiers because they are nation, too.

Nation’s scary indifference.
  In Korea, only men have mandatory military duty, so many women are not be attentive to military issues. Occasionally we even see postings saying rough words to soldiers on SNS. They have senseless and wrong ideas about soldiers and think that they deserve to be protected by soldiers. In everyday life as well as on SNS, people use the term, ‘a dog’ for the army, ‘a seal’ for the navy, and Gunbari for soldiers in general. We can also hear these words from men as well as women. In contrast, American soldiers are treated as heroes. I wonder if the soldiers who are given unfair treatment can protect a country with sincere patriotism. Apart from belittling them, sneering can be an obstacle which bars our respect for soldiers. You should abandon your indifference and prejudices to the military and pay attention to national security with proper awareness. Soldiers are trained to protect our country and win a war. So we should use proper expressions, with the recognition that the use of those belittling words is very shameful.

  There are diverse ways to protect the country other than through our soldiers. Soon they will be the driving force of society and lead the country. We should not only follow the national policies and duties but also consider how to change and protect the country.

The recurrent tragedies.
  Many people know that countless officers and soldiers have died in military accidents over the years. Nevertheless, citizens concern remains low. The case of Sergeant Lim occurred at this point. On June 6, 2014, at GOP of 22nd Division in Goseong, Sergeant Lim killed 5 soldiers and wounded 7 other soldiers by firing a gun at random and throwing a grenade. The military authorities caught him alive and he was sentenced to death. This case became an important issue for a pretty long time. Some thought that it was a pity and others thought that it was a natural result of military conditions. The incident of Sergeant Lim is assumed to be the result of him being ostracized by his seniors and successors. Two months earlier, Private 1st Class Yun of the 28th Division was killed by seniors and through abuse by the staff sergeant. They made him lick their spit, did not let him sleep, battered him, and made him feel sexual humiliation. In July of the same year, Corporal Lee experienced cruel treatment during his term of service and committed suicide on the day of his discharge. In August, two corporals committed suicide together during their furlough because they couldn’t endure any more brutal treatment.
  It is sad that most victims of military accidents are soldiers who need extra care. Some of the victims have turned out to be victims of cruel treatment. They were not given the special care that they earnestly needed. Instead, they were special toys for their comrades who wear the same uniform. The root cause of most army accidents is the relationships of soldiers in barracks. The reason why this problem is difficult to solve is because of the unique system of the military. In the military, incidents usually tend to be solved among the soldiers themselves and more than anything else, the commanders don’t seem to care about their units and even connive these accidents for their promotion. If commanders don’t change their attitude, harsh treatment and its victims won’t be eradicated. The sergeant who killed Private 1st Class Yun also experienced harassment when his rank was low. He told his executive about being harassed but no measures were taken. He adapted himself to this environment, harassed successors, and finally he became a crazy murderer.

 If enduring, you’re Private 1st Class Yun, if not enduring you’re Sergeant Lim!
  People are agitated over the question of sending their sons to do military service. Because of the military accidents mentioned above, and their concern for their son, brother or boyfriend, many people are demanding the enactment of soldiers’ human rights and other such measures. There are demonstrations. Most people are saying that it is urgent that soldiers’ welfare and training improve. Occasionally, the opinion, ‘Do not provide room and board at barracks, rather they should commute’; ‘Alleviate relationships between the top and bottom rank in the military establishment’; and, ‘Remove the imbalance of military duty for men and women’. However, other people oppose these statements, saying nothing can be improved. Whatever opinion is right, the attention is growing. Someone said, “If enduring, you’re Private 1st Class Yun, if not enduring you’re Sergeant Lim.’’ This phrase shows disappointment and directly criticizes the military authorities.
  In the case of Private 1st Class Yun, the court applied the crime of injury, not felonious homicide since they didn’t recognize willful negligence of the assailants. But this judgment caused strong opposition among the public. After the court of appeals, the felonious homicide was applied but the sentence of the Sergeant Lee was reduced to 35 years from 45 years, and the sentences of 3 other people was reduced to 12 years from 25~30 years. In case of the staff sergeant who aided and abetted the accident, his sentence was reduced to 10 years from 15 years. The comment in legal circles is that the sentence of the 1st trial was too severe. One man’s life was destroyed cruelly. Considering that the assailants can make a comeback after being released from prison, it’s an absurd assertion that the sentence was too severe.

Late but innovative efforts of the government
  In August, 2014, the military authorities established the Military Culture Innovation Committee to solve the problems in the military. The task of this committee is to create a healthy military that observes the law, and doesn’t conceal anything from parents and family who want to trust in the military authorities. Parents and families also want a military culture which is willing to communicate with society and with people as much as possible to avoid the customary closed atmosphere of the military. The committee announced the primary measures for a more ‘open-minded military’: ①Units ↔ parent ↔ soldiers 24 hours guaranteed communication ②Founding GOP visits ③Allowing visits on weekdays for every unit ④Start selective furlough ⑤Improve overcrowded and poor living conditions

  Military authorities made a five-year comprehensive plan for developing a human rights culture in which every soldier is respected like a human being. First they plan to, ‘Reinforce the human rights counseling of victims.’ For quick and professional rights counseling, they nominated human rights counselors and constructed a military united human rights cyber system so that the soldiers who have difficulty can have easy access to their counselors. Secondly they plan to, ‘Reinforce the human rights education for soldiers.’ From 2015, human rights instructors are assigned to the battalion units. Soldiers are educated about human rights during 11 sessions; more than 9 hours in total. In addition, the military commanders are educated by members of the human rights committee, professors, and external experts. Third, they plan to ‘Revitalize the internal and the external communications for improving military human rights policies.’ It establishes and operates the ‘Defense of Human Rights Council’ whose main task is to discuss soldier’s human rights in cooperation with the whole army and the government’s Human Committee. They will enlarge military human rights monitoring teams, which were limited to the army and air force, to include all soldiers. This is to help soldiers see and accept various field opinions and reflect them in military rights policy. They would attend international human rights meetings and attempt to follow international human rights standards faithfully. The fourth step is to, ‘Improve the management system of military human rights policy.’ Each army sets up and executes its annual enforcement plans and military authorities evaluate how each unit carries out its plan. They will impose human rights impact assessments and prevent human rights abuse and discriminatory acts.
  However, there are some soldiers who may abuse these efforts of military authorities. They may assert that they were excessively abused in order to get their seniors in trouble. In this case, commanders should grasp that situation quickly and clearly, and distinguish right and wrong. Military authorities must continuously make greater efforts so that soldiers maintain order, but they must not abuse their status in the class culture.

  It is not easy to make cultural changes in the military where great importance is given to fixed regulations, order, and strict and vertical relations. But one year ago today, the military authorities started to make changes which settled down faster than in the past. To continue these changes and efforts at the national level, citizens need to pay attention. Terrible accidents are spread all over the world through the media, and to which citizens are very highly attentive, but they don’t pay as much attention to military issues here as they do to the other issues. The Private 1st Class Yun case was horrible, but many people still don’t know the specific cause, result, or the future measures. Likewise, the Military Culture Innovation Committee is not active enough. It’s not more than one year since it was established. Nonetheless, there are no more efforts to make more changes. The above mentioned cases attracted the nations attention and changed the military authorities. Accidents and incidents in the military are not only from firing a gun, suicide, attack and death by harsh treatments; they include some violations of soldiers’ natural rights such as sexual molestation, verbal violence and invasion of sleep. However these accidents are rarely covered by the media, and even if they are, they don’t gain much attention. Now, many people around us do military duties with much less money than minimum wages. I want soldiers to have self-respect for themselves. And we need to respect those in combat uniforms who protect the Republic of Korea today.

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