(4th LD) Suspect in shooting spree in shootout with authorities
GOSEONG, South Korea, June 22 (Yonhap) -- Soldiers have surrounded an armed Army deserter at an elementary school after a shooting spree at a border post, the military said Sunday.
One military officer was wounded in the shootout that occurred at about 2:20 p.m. near a roadside checkpoint in this eastern border town.
The officer was transported to a nearby hospital by helicopter, the military said. There were no civilian casualties.
"There was a shootout in which about 10 shots were fired in an area just north of South Korea's civilian passage restriction line," a military spokesman told reporters. "We're currently persuading him to surrender."
Officials said the fugitive sergeant, surnamed Lim, opened fire first at soldiers who were pursuing him.
The site of the shootout is about 10 kilometers from the border post where the sergeant opened fire at comrades in his Army unit in Goseong on Saturday night.
Five soldiers were killed: a staff sergeant, a sergeant, a corporal and two privates. Their identities were withheld by the Army. Seven others were wounded in the shooting. The wounded soldiers did not sustain life-threatening injuries, officials said.
Lim also detonated a grenade before opening fire Saturday, they said, but there were no casualties from the detonation. The shooter escaped with a grenade, a gun and some 60 rounds of ammunition.
Lim had opened fire immediately after wrapping up his guard duty of about six hours from 2 p.m. Saturday.
Although the front-line unit is near the tense border with North Korea, the incident is not connected with the country, officials said.
"Lim was on the list of those who require special attention, as he had difficulties in adapting to the military life," an official said, adding that the motive for the shootings remains unknown.
The Ministry of National Defense on Sunday publicly apologized for the incident.
"We sincerely apologize for causing trouble to the people," Kim Min-seok, spokesman for the ministry, told reporters. "We pray that the soldiers who died from this unexpected accident rest in peace and offer our deep condolences to the families of those killed and injured. We will do all we can do to support them," he said.
The ministry set up a crisis management team to deal with the situation.
The incident is not the first time that a South Korean soldier has attacked his comrades. In 2005, a South Korean Army private set off a hand grenade and opened fire at a unit near the border with North Korea, killing eight sleeping colleagues and wounding two others.
In 2011, a Marine Corps corporal went on a shooting spree at a seaside unit on Ganghwa Island, west of Seoul, killing four soldiers and wounding one.
A military truck carries troop members to the site of a firefight between the troops and a runaway soldier in Goseong, Gangwon Province, on June 22, 2014, after he killed five of his comrades in a shooting spree at a frontline Army unit in the border town. (Yonhap)