Korean army sergeant gets death sentence for murder spree

Korean army sergeant gets death sentence for murder spree
A military ambulance transporting a conscript soldier who shot and killed five comrades, travels to a hospital in Goseong June 23, 2014.

A military court on Tuesday gave the death penalty to an Army sergeant who killed five soldiers and wounded seven more in a shooting rampage at a guard post near the inter-Korean border last year.

The 23-year-old soldier surnamed Lim was charged with murder for the shooting in June 2014 at his unit in the 22nd Army Division in Goseong, Gangwon Province. He was also found guilty of defecting from his unit with weapons and killing a superior officer.

A soldier who kills a superior officer can be sentenced to death, according to Korea's military laws.

"The accused has committed a tenacious and elaborate crime. A death penalty is inevitable for the cruelty of gunning down innocent comrades," the General Military Court of the First Army Headquarters in Wonju, Gangwon Province, said. "He also discarded his duties as a soldier to protect the safety and property of people. (The court) must hold him accountable for causing a severe security vacuum, and sound an alarm against such a horrid crime."

The court also pointed out that rather than apologise to the victims, he complained about his own sufferings and blamed fellow soldiers for the deaths.

Investigators had said Lim must receive capital punishment for "committing a ruthless and premeditated crime against unarmed men." They added he had shown no signs of remorse and attempted to justify his crimes by saying he had been bullied by his colleagues in the barracks.

A month before the incident, Lim had reportedly been involved in a quarrel with another soldier.

His legal representative complained that the court had ignored several testimonies proving that Lim had been bullied, and said he would launch an appeal.

A family representative of the victims said it was an "obvious ruling" and urged authorities to make sure such an incident would not reoccur.

A psychiatric evaluation of Lim released in January indicated signs of paranoia typically found in bullying victims, but concluded that these were within a normal range.

At 8:15 p.m. on June 21, Lim detonated a grenade and opened fire in and outside his unit's barracks, killing or injuring a dozen soldiers. He then fled the scene with a K-2 rifle, 60 bullets and a grenade.

He was captured the next day north of the Civilian Access Control Line near the border after a gunfight with troops attempting to apprehend him.

Lim joined the Army in December 2012 for his mandatary military service and was to be discharged in September 2014.

The case is the worst military killing spree since 2005, when a soldier killed eight people and left two seriously injured. It also underscored the immense stress general outpost units are forced to endure, including the physical and mental pressure of having to stand guard for long hours in an isolated area.

Right before the accident, Lim had conducted vigilance duty for nearly six hours.

A 2012 report published by the Korea Armed Forces Nursing Academy showed that about 12.8 per cent of GOP soldiers were heavily stressed, due mainly to "lack of personal time" and the "tedious and unchanging work."

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