Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

Shooting rampage suspect captured

South Korean soldiers search for a conscript suspected of killing five comrades (AP)

A South Korean soldier who went on the run after allegedly killing five colleagues has been captured following an unsuccessful suicide attempt, military officials said today.

A Defence Ministry spokesman said the 22-year-old sergeant, identified only by his surname Yim, shot himself in the side of his abdomen but failed to kill himself. He said Yim has been taken to a nearby hospital.

A massive manhunt was launched for Yim after authorities said he killed five comrades and injured seven others near the North Korean border on Saturday night before fleeing his frontline army unit with his standard issue K2 assault rifle.

Yesterday, he fired on the troops chasing him, injuring a platoon leader.

Today, officials said a South Korean soldier was wounded by suspected friendly fire.

Troops had surrounded Yim in a forest about four miles from the border outpost and threw him a mobile phone so he could talk to his father.

Yim's parents also used a loudspeaker to try to persuade him to surrender.

It was not clear what triggered the rampage and there was no indication that North Korea, South Korea's bitter rival, was involved.

Yim was due to complete his nearly two years of mandatory military service in September, according to defence officials. Initial personality tests last April put him within a group of soldiers who needed special attention and were unfit for frontline duty, a Defence Ministry official said. But tests last November concluded that he had improved and could serve in the frontline area.

The rampage comes as South Koreans grapple with worries over public safety in the wake of an April ferry disaster that left more than 300 people dead or missing.

And some in Seoul have raised questions about the discipline and readiness of South Korea's military, which is under near-constant threat from a North Korea that has recently staged a series of missile and artillery drills, traded fire with the South near a disputed maritime border and threatened South Korea's leader.

"Due to a shortage of troops, even some soldiers on the list of special attention had to be on border guard, which requires soldiers to be heavily armed. Needless to say, the military needs to come up with remedial measures to this problem," the Korea Times said in an editorial.

Hundreds of thousands of troops from the rival Koreas are squared off along the world's most heavily armed border. The Korean Peninsula is still technically in a state of war as the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

Shooting rampages against fellow soldiers happen occasionally. South Korea's military maintains a conscription system requiring all able-bodied men to serve about two years because of the North Korean threat.

In 2011, a 19-year-old marine corporal went on a shooting rampage at a Gwanghwa Island base, just south of the maritime border with North Korea. Military investigators later said that corporal was angry about being shunned and slighted and showed signs of mental illness before the shooting.

In 2005, a soldier threw a hand grenade and opened fire at a front-line army unit in a rampage that killed eight colleagues and injured several others. Pfc Kim Dong-min told investigators he was enraged at superiors who verbally abused him.

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