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Guard Post Murders Are Only a Memory

Posted June. 15, 2006 03:48,   


“I will do my best for tight security!”—

In the afternoon of June 13 at a Guard Post (GP) in the frontlines of DMZ inside Yeoncheon-gun, Gyeonggi Province, the loud voices of young soldiers filled the barracks.

With the upcoming anniversary of the June 19 shooting rampage that shocked the Korean people last year, Minister of Defense Yoon Kwang-ung and reporters visited the tragic site once again.

Gruesome traces of bullet marks and blood caused by shooting and grenades could not be seen anywhere. The building that reminded of decrepit, stinking old warehouse had converted into a modern facility.

After the rampage, military authorities used one billion won to expand the post from a single floor building to a two-floor building, and renovated the interior to become as neat as any lodgings.

Sleeping quarters in the barracks were increased from 24-pyong to 36-pyong (1 pyeong=3.3㎡), so soldiers could have more space, and thermal pipes were laid under the bed floor for heating. At the time of the incident, three electric fans and one ventilation fan were the only cooling devices, but currently there are air conditioners and air filters in every quarter.

Unlike the old building where it was difficult to take a decent shower, there is a clean bathtub on the first floor. The former gym, where there were only a few rusty workout machines, has recently acquired treadmills and other equipment.

The Ministry of Defense and Army plan to finish modernizing 16 guard posts until September, and from next year until 2009, remodel an additional 47 posts.

After visiting the post, referring to the shooting rampage, Minister Yoon said, “If there are problems while in the military, it should be solved through dialogue. In particular, higher ranking soldiers should be kinder to privates.”

Although the physical signs of the tragedy have been removed, the pain still lingers in the present. The family members of the eight deceased soldiers still live through indescribable pain, and 15 of the 27 survivors were discharged for medical reasons. Guard post commander 1st Lieutenant Lee and Sergeant Hong, and two others who were at the scene of the incident, have overcome their shock and come back to the line of duty.

Deputy Commander Staff Sergeant Choi, who was indicted on charges of manipulating on-duty records of unit members, was sentenced last September to one year in prison and two years of probation and dismissed from the army.

Private First Class Kim Dong-min, who shot his fellow soldiers, was sentenced to death in this first court martial, and appealed, but it was rejected, so his case has recently been submitted to the Supreme Court.

A unit official said, “We plan to hold a one-year anniversary memorial service at the recruit training hall with family members and unit officials attending. We also plan to visit the GP after the memorial service since the families have requested so.”

Sang-Ho Yun ysh1005@donga.com