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Scandal prompts S. Korea to stop soldiers from working in leaders’ homes

South Korean soldiers wait in a truck during a training exercise at the Rodriguez Live Fire Range, South Korea, March 21, 2017.

MARCUS FICHTL/STARS AND STRIPES

By MARCUS FICHTL AND YOO KYONG CHANG | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 7, 2017

OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea – Military conscripts will no longer be allowed to work in South Korean generals’ homes following recent abuse allegations.

The South Korean government announced Thursday that 122 soldiers assigned to senior leaders’ residences will move to new units next month. Another 59 working at golf courses and tennis courts will be reassigned as well.

The news follows accusations last month by the Center for Military Human Rights Korea – an advocacy group for South Korean soldiers – that 2nd Operational Division commander Gen. Park Chan-ju and his wife mistreated soldiers working in their home.

Conscripts were ordered to remain on call around the clock and wear electronic bracelets that vibrated whenever family members called on them, the defense ministry said. They also had to pick up golf balls, take care of gardening, do laundry and chauffeur the couple’s children in a private car.

Park’s wife also has been accused of treating the soldiers as though she was their commander and subjecting them to verbal and physical abuse, the ministry said.

Park offered to take responsibility for the scandal and to be discharged, but he didn’t confirm or deny the allegations in a text message sent to reporters last month, according to Yonhap News Agency.

Conscripts make up the bulk of South Korea’s 600,000-strong military. Two years of military service is mandatory for South Korean men between ages 18 and 35. They earn about $150 a month during their enlistment.

A recent probe sparked by the Park allegations found 57 instances of mistreatment of government workers, including abuse of soldiers, police officers and foreign ministry staff, Yonhap reported.

Center for Military Human Rights Korea spokesman Kim Hyung Nam told Stars and Stripes on Wednesday that the group welcomed the decision to remove troops from leaders’ homes, describing the system as a “deep-rooted evil” and “nothing short of a modern version of slavery.”

chang.kyong@stripes.com
fichtl.marcus@stripes.com
Twitter: @MarcusFichtl

 

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