By Park Si-soo
Korean marines are no exception in upholding abusive and inhumane military traditions, abusing junior soldiers in the name of strengthening combat morale, the state human rights agency said Thursday.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) demanded the Korea Marine Corps punish eight marines for habitual violence committed against their junior soldiers.
It also advised marine commanders to conduct a comprehensive investigation to root out what it called the “barbaric” practice of top-down assault that has been taking root for decades in the name of strengthening military morale.
The rights commission has conducted a low-key investigation into the Marine Corps after receiving a complaint from a marine last December.
Confirming that the soldier was habitually assaulted and maltreated by his seniors in the barracks, the NHRC openly scrutinized the regiment in question in January, the first direct scrutiny of the Marine Corps by the commission.
The watchdog found officers who had tried to cover up or scale down assault cases. It urged the Navy Chief of Staff to reprimand the chief commander of the victim’s division and regiment and 11 other marines embroiled in the case as offenders.
It also sought legal aid from the Korea Bar Association to have two other victimized marines file a lawsuit against the offenders.
According to the investigation report, a senior marine punched another marine, whose enlistment date was later than the former, in the chest and abdomen with the latter hanging from the top of a bunk bed.
The victim was hospitalized for broken ribs. Following the incident, senior marines pressured the victim to testify he had sustained the injuries while playing soccer, the report said.
Some lower-ranking commanders were aware of the incident but they didn’t report it to their superiors, an apparent move to cover it up, the commission said.
Some other marines were beaten for their failure to memorize the names of senior marines and the “imperfect” cleaning of barracks.
“Such top-down violence is still persistent in the Marine Corps,” said a spokeswoman for the NHRC. “Drastic countermeasures should be employed to end such an inhumane practice in the military.”
Created in April 1949, the Marine Corps has grown into a 27,000-strong armed service with several bases including those on five border islands in the West Sea and in Pohang, North Gyeongsang Province.