By Lee Hyo-sik
The National Human Rights Commission said Wednesday that the human rights of a draftee, who committed suicide in March after his requests for ear infection treatment were ignored, were violated at the nation’s largest boot camp.
The commission recommended that the Minister of National Defense and the head of the Korean Army Training Center in Nonsan, South Chungcheong Province, reprimand those responsible for supervising the dead conscript, as well as improve the training center’s medical care of new recruits.
The 21-year-old conscript, surnamed Jung, was found hanging in a toilet at the center on March 1. Jung’s family claimed he chose to kill himself after his requests to get treatment for his ear infection were denied several times.
``The family filed a complaint with us that drill instructors and other supervisors did not take proper steps to care for Jung when he wanted to be treated at a civilian hospital for an ear infection. The family also said some officers suspected him of faking the illness and verbally abused him, pushing Jung to kill himself out of despair,’’ the commission said.
After reviewing letters and memos written by Jung, witness testimonies, his training and medical records, as well as his autopsy report, the commission said it could not find any wrongdoings by army doctors over their diagnosis and the ensuing medical treatment.
But it said Jung’s human rights were violated because his requests to be treated at a civilian hospital were denied, robbing him of proper and timely medical treatment.
“As a result, he faced a great deal of difficulty in adjusting to life at the boot camp,’’ the commission said.
It also confirmed that Jung’s platoon commander verbally abused him, thinking the conscript was faking illness to evade training.
``A platoon leader and other drill sergeants were responsible for Jung’s death to a certain degree because their inadequate supervision and verbal abuse of new recruits contributed to driving Jung to committing suicide,’’ the commission said.
The Korean Army Training Center, established in 1951, has been criticized frequently in the past for incidents of abusive training and improper medical care, which sometimes resulted in tragedy.
On April 23, a 23-year-old conscript died from meningitis, after he was forced to go on a 20-kilometer march at night and do other strenuous activities while in poor health. He was given only two tablets of Tylenol by the training center for his condition.
In 2005, a company commander at the camp ordered 192 new recruits to eat excrement after he discovered blockages in two toilet drainage systems.