Death sentence upheld on S Korea conscript over shooting spree

A military ambulance transporting a conscript soldier who shot and killed five comrades, travels to a hospital in Goseong June 23, 2014.
PHOTO: Reuters

SEOUL - A South Korean military appeals court upheld a death sentence Monday for a young conscript who killed five colleagues in a shooting spree at a guard post near the border with North Korea.

In its ruling, the court said the 22-year-old sergeant, surnamed Lim, had shown "unimaginable cruelty".

Lim threw a grenade and opened fire on members of his unit in June last year, killing five and wounding seven.

Captured alive after a failed suicide attempt following a 24-hour standoff, he was condemned to death by a court martial in February, triggering an automatic appeals process, which will go all the way to the Supreme Court.

There is currently a moratorium on the death penalty in South Korea which has not carried out an execution since 1997.

Death sentences are effectively commuted into life imprisonment.

Lim, who was listed as a soldier requiring special observation before the shootings, said he carried out the attack after being repeatedly mocked and harassed by both lower and higher-ranking members of his unit.

Barrack-room bullying has long tainted South Korea's military service, and has been blamed for numerous suicides and shooting incidents.

Conscripts, most of them in their early 20s, account for the lion's share of the military's 690,000 active personnel.