Two conscripted soldiers, who committed suicide separately while serving in the South Korean military 34 years ago, turned out to be victims of physical abuse in barracks, a presidential panel said Wednesday.
The Presidential Commission on Suspicious Deaths in the Military included the wrongful deaths of the two soldiers, identified only as Private First Class Kim and Sergeant Kim, in a report issued on the occasion of its first founding anniversary.
The commission said it has received a total of 703 petitions over the past year and concluded investigations into 13 cases.
The military had defined the death of Pfc. Kim in 1985 as a suicide caused by hard field training and an injury.
Lee In-lam (Yonhap)
But the presidential panel's report concluded that Pfc. Kim was constantly battered by his senior soldiers and that an Army doctor's recommendation that he be separated from his attackers was ignored.
It also said Sgt. Kim, who the military said took his own life "for personal reasons" in the same year, was a victim of military violence, as he was found to have repeatedly suffered from physical and verbal abuses by senior soldiers.
The commission has asked the defense ministry to reinvestigate the deaths of Pfc. Kim, Sgt. Kim and 10 other soldiers, recommending that they all be reclassified as line of duty deaths.
"The commission will make further efforts to provide state compensation and medical expenses for former conscripts who died wrongful deaths or were discharged for mental illnesses," Lee In-lam, chief of the commission, said.
The 84-member presidential commission established in September last year under the Special Act on Ascertaining the Truth of Military Accidents Resulting in Death is scheduled to operate for three years. (Yonhap)