South Korean soldiers take their positions as part of the
search for the conscript soldier who killed five comrades
in a grenade and gun attack. REUTERS/Han Jae-ho/News1
A stand-off between South Korean troops and a conscript
soldier who killed five comrades ended today when the young
recruit shot himself in an incident that has raised fresh
questions over the country's rules on compulsory military
Troops cornered the 22-year-old soldier in a densely forested
area near a small town in Goseong county, a mountainous
region on the eastern coast of the peninsula near the border
with North Korea.
After a 24-hour stand-off and despite pleas by his father to
give himself up, the conscript shot himself in the side, and
was taken to a military hospital.
Late on Saturday night the soldier threw a grenade and opened
fire, killing five members of his unit and wounding seven at
a base outpost in Goseong county. The conscript then fled
carrying a firearm, ammunition and a grenade and exchanged
gunfire with troops.
The soldier, identified as Sergeant Lim, was described by an
official as an "introvert" and said there had been earlier
concerns over his psychological health, but he was deemed fit
to be deployed to the outpost after passing a test in
The military has been criticised before for lax discipline in
some units and failure to prevent previous cases where
soldiers, suffering personal problems, have shot fellow
In a similar incident in 2011, a South Korean marine went on
a shooting spree at a base near the tense maritime border
with North Korea, killing four fellow soldiers before trying
to blow himself up with a hand grenade.
Defence ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said a large number
of conscript soldiers, most of whom are in their early 20s,
are classified as "of interest" and are under supervision by
the command for concerns over potential disciplinary or
mental health issues.
About 800 soldiers of the 22nd Infantry Division that serves
the Goseong region, or 9 percent of division force, are under
supervision, Kim said. Lim was one of them.
All able-bodied South Korean men serve about two years under
a conscription system that makes up a large part of the
600,000 active service troops, and there are concerns that
new recruits are softer and find it harder to adapt to