S. Korean Soldier Sentenced to Death for Grenade and Gun Murders

FEBRUARY 03, 2015

Seoul. A South Korean court-martial on Tuesday convicted a soldier of the murder of five comrades in a grenade and gun attack and sentenced him to death, a military official said, in a case that raised questions over compulsory military service.

The conscript, identified as Sgt. Lim, killed five members of his unit and wounded seven last June at an outpost near the border with North Korea.

After a 24-hour stand-off with troops and despite pleas by his father to give himself up, Lim shot himself in the abdomen before being captured and taken to hospital.

"The death penalty is inevitable for such a violent crime of killing innocent comrades at the point of a gun," a military judge was quoted by Yonhap News Agency as saying.

A military official at the command post in Wonju, about two hours east of Seoul where the court-martial was held, confirmed the sentence.

Lim, in his early 20s, was described by an official as an "introvert" and the military said there had been concerns over his psychological health, but he was deemed fit enough to be sent to the outpost.

The military has been criticized for lax discipline in some units and failure to prevent cases where soldiers suffering personal problems have attacked fellow soldiers.

South Korea maintains a military of about 630,000, many of them conscripts who serve about two years of mandatory service.

The South is technically at war with North Korea because they only signed a truce to end their 1950-53 conflict, not a treaty.

In 2011, a South Korean marine was sentenced to death for killing four fellow soldiers in a shooting spree. A military court also handed down the death penalty on a soldier for killing eight troops in a 2005 rampage.

The country last carried out executions in December 1997, when 23 people were hanged, according to the Justice Ministry.