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Reporter's Comment: Officers experience barracks life disguised as private soldiers; A recurrence as barracks accidents recur
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Six newly-appointed military officers including Second Lieutenant Park, 25, and others at the 20th Division of the Republic of Korea Army disguised as private second class soldiers and led a military life together with other soldiers in the Recruits Education Unit from July 15 to 28.

This was based on the division commander's order to probe into the reality of barracks in secret after an urgent order was handed down from the Ministry of National Defense in the wake of the shooting spree at a marine unit at the beginning of this month.

Park Sungjin



These six officers, it was learned, tried to grasp hardships of soldiers after being provided the same supplies and living barrack life together with rank-and-file soldiers.

Second Lieutenant Park said after the mission, "It was an invaluable chance to experience tension and concern suffered by newly assigned private second class(PSC) soldiers and difficulties lived by PSC and Private First Class(PFC) soldiers in the barracks.

Now let's turn the clock to July 2005, six years back. At that time the army competed to suggest measures to improve barrack culture after a shooting rampage occurred at a Yunchun GP (Guard Post) on June 16, 2005.

At that time also 45 newly-commissioned platoon commanders at the 31th ROK Army Division embarked on an experience of newly-assigned recruits.

The 45 second lieutenants with a mission of 'experiencing barrack life of private second class soldiers' entered into a physical experience of three days and two nights.

Second Lieutenant Kim, 24 then, said, "It was an invaluable opportunity to experience difficulties of barrack life lived by PSC's and PFC's."

The officers' comments of six years ago and currently are almost identical if the two instances are compared. It is very similar that the ROK Army made an announcement that "We will make more serious efforts to reform the barrack culture based on the newly grasped reality."

This type of experience could be understood to be field commanders' proactive efforts to improve barrack culture. However, very coincidentally, the disguise and comments from experience are very similar. This is why it appears to a third party's eyes to be a second- and third-round recurrence of the same measure.

You could also retort that 'the second round' of the same measure is better than nothing at all. However, the 'second round' shown by the military is really repetitious.

A few days ago, Minister of Defence Kim Kwan-jin handed down an action outline that has been already under implementation in the name of 'the Defence Minister's Directive.'

You know about the Korean proverb that goes "Fix the stable after the cow is stolen." The military has had lots of 'cows' stolen and fixed the 'stables.'

Once you fixed the stable, keep a good watch over it. If a similar shooting spree happens again in the future, would you again embark on a secret barrack experience? (Written by Park Sungjin, City Desk. longriver@kyunghyang.com )


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