Calling For an End to Conscription
Calling For an End to Conscription
In June 2014 a South Korean Soldier opened fire on five of his comrades and injured seven others; he has recently been sentenced to death by a military court.
The sergeant opened fire on his colleagues at his post near the North Korean border and later fled, sparking a two day manhunt. The 23 year old recruit, named as Lim, was captured after he shot himself during a heated stand-off with troops.
The investigation into the attack was completed in July last year; it found that the attack was an act of retaliation for bullying within the army and at school.
Whilst being found guilty of killing and injuring his comrades, Lim was also found guilty of running away with a rifle and ammunition. Under South Korea’s military law, a soldier must face the death penalty for killing a superior: one of the men he killed was a direct superior of his. Before his sentencing, Lim expressed remorse for the attack.
This attack ignited a debate about military culture, particularly in South Korea, where all males must do two years military service. A spokesman from the South Korean Defence Ministry saw this attack as an outcome of the “difficulties in adapting to military life”. Lim had been noticed by the Army as having deep issues in adjusting to military life and was put on a list of conscripts who required special attention.
The idea of a bullying culture of the army is still prevalent today: in South Korea past incidents within the military have been linked to bullying and mental health problems. In 2014, several suicides by young conscripts were reported and in April, a private died after he was beaten by his superiors. A sergeant was sentenced for 45 years for the attack; the other four soldiers were jailed for between 15 and 30 years respectively. In September two Special Forces officers died after collapsing during captivity training; their deaths resulting from suffocation.
This has sparked a public outcry within South Korea and prompted the army to take a tougher stance on bullying and abuse.
South Korea is not the only country whose military has a bullying culture. In Germany, a new recruit just out of basic training joined one of Britain’s most decorated regiments and was subjected to humiliating physical abuse by soldiers of the same unit for refusing to go out drinking. A spokesperson from the British Ministry of Defence said: “The Armed Forces have a zero tolerance approach to abuse, bullying, and discrimination,” and that the Armed Forces, “have taken a number of steps to improve training and awareness concerning harassment and bullying”.
The uproar to end harassment, bullying, and abuse within the Armed Forces in all countries can be seen throughout the world today. However, this is not a new phenomenon, as it has been going on long before the First and Second World Wars. Recruits have been treated badly by the Armed Forces for years. This is arguably to stop soldiers viewing themselves of individuals and seeing their unit as one body. This is how the army arguably turns individuals into soldiers prepared to do anything to defend their countries. This does not mean these actions are right and more needs to be done so that lives can be saved throughout the world.
Conscription should not be forced upon young people. There should be tests involved in the recruitment process to decide whether a person can handle being within the military environment. A tougher stance should also be enforced on those that continue to bully and harass individuals within the armed forces, to stop dreadful outcomes such as this.
Nina is in her Honours year at The University of Strathclyde in Glasgow studying History. She loves keeping fit and healthy at the gym and singing to her hearts content. Because of Nina's love of all things history related, she has a passion for reading, writing and researching. Nina is the Editor-in-Chief for an online magazine for female students at Strathclyde called Her Campus Strath and wants to continue her passion for writing after graduation.