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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Aug. 7)

2017/08/07 06:58

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Treating soldiers like slaves

The Army has come under fire after allegations of subordinate abuse by Gen. Park Chan-ju, a four-star Army general, and his wife.

The incidents of abuse revealed by the Center for Military Human Rights have enraged citizens, particularly those who have sons performing mandatory military service. The center has alleged that "housekeeping soldiers" who were assigned to serve at the general's residence were forced to do chores under inhuman conditions.

It is even more appalling that the general's wife, who has no official position in the military, treated the soldiers as if they were her own subordinates.

According to news reports, the soldiers endured a variety of physical and verbal abuse. They were forced to do laundry for the couple's son, help with the couple's backyard farming and pick up golf balls. The couple made the soldiers wear electronic bracelets so they could be reached at any time. One of the soldiers even tried to commit suicide because he could no longer endure the abuse. Park offered to resign amid the public uproar for his "enslavement" of soldiers.

The couple's uncivilized behavior reflects the mindset of some Koreans with power and position that they can treat their subordinates anyway they want and get away with it. Examples of this can be seen everywhere. Former presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo of the People's Party lost a lot of public support when it was revealed at the height of the campaign that his wife had ordered Ahn's assistant, hired by the National Assembly secretariat, to run personal errands, such as picking up groceries.

In a very rigid place like the Army, where orders are to be strictly followed, those in the lower ranks are more prone to face abuse and not be able to speak up about it. The military should conduct a thorough investigation into Park's case and find out if there are other similar cases. Defense Minister Song Young-mo should apologize for this and come up with measures to protect soldiers from all kinds of human rights abuse.