RE: Recently Locked Thread on Brutalization of and Brutality in Military Units

Discussion in 'The ARRSE Hole' started by Andy_S, Jul 31, 2011.

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  1. Andy_S

    Andy_S LE Book Reviewer


    The issue IS news/a current affair in South Korea (where I live and work).

    FYI, I post a NYT link on this issue below this message.

    Given that the thread has generated a couple of serious responses I'd be very grateful if you could unlock the thread.

    Alternatively, if you prefer to re-post it elsewhere on this forum that is more suitable, please do so, you are the moderators and I bow to your decision on this matter.

    I would suggest that while this issue IS a contentious one, to the best of my knowledge, ARSSE has never shied away from controversy.

    I'd also suggest it is a serious issue in military culture that deserves discussion. And if South Korea is discussing this - as they are - why not this country? We have a positive national reputation for honesty, openness and transparency, I see no need to keep skeletons in the cupboard.

    As per the first post - which made full and open disclosure that yes, I will write (in a South Korean media outlet next week) an Op-ed on this issue - nobody who does not wish to be, will be quoted. My reason for posting this was to get a background sense of how British soldiers/ex-British soldiers think on this issue.

    For any posters who wish to discuss this issue seriously:
    I'd be grateful if you would look at theorginial post in the locked thread, which contains questions.

    For those with fear and/or loathing of the journalistic profession:
    Of course you are welcome to make your feelings clear, but I am (as far as I know...?) a member of this forum in decent standing. I am also a published military historian so am NOT anti-forces. On ARSSE, one takes the rough with the smooth, but in this case, I'd respectfully request some forebearance.

    Best regards to all -
    Andrew Salmon

    SEOUL, South Korea — “If anyone could be a marine, I’d never have joined.” That is the slogan of South Korea’s Marine Corps, and it speaks volumes about the force’s sense of its elite status; it is a particularly bold assertion in a country where most able-bodied men perform mandatory military service.

    These days, however, that marine pride, and the discipline of the South Korean military in general, has come under uncomfortable scrutiny.

    In June, some marines fired their rifles toward a civilian passenger plane approaching the Seoul airport, mistaking it for a North Korean aircraft in an episode that has raised questions about the marines’ training and preparedness. (Fortunately, they did not hit the plane.)

    But a series of very different episodes that followed in quick succession this month have proved even more troubling for many South Koreans.

    On July 4, a marine corporal who investigators said was bullied by others in his barracks went on a shooting rampage, killing four marines and wounding a fifth. On July 10, a marine private hanged himself. Bruises, possibly from an earlier beating, were found on his chest. Four days later, a marine master sergeant killed himself, also by hanging.

    These episodes, and similar ones in the army, have amplified a problem faced by South Korea’s 650,000-member military, a force intended to deter aggression from North Korea, with which the South never concluded a formal peace after the 1950-53 Korean War. Increasingly, the military’s ranks are filled with young men who have not experienced war and no longer consider their 21-month compulsory service a “sacred duty,” as their fathers did, but rather an inconvenient interruption of their civilian lives and careers.

    That shift in attitude not only has worried superiors who count on a motivated force, but also has led to a generational clash. Many younger soldiers and marines are now unwilling to accept harsh treatment long tolerated and even encouraged in South Korea as a way of toughening up men for battle, including beatings severe enough to puncture eardrums and cut deeply into thighs.

    Even conservatives, like President Lee Myung-bak, have indicated they believe that times have changed and that the military needs to find a new way of maintaining discipline other than through physical assaults.

    “Some young people, who grew up in freedom, seem psychologically unable to adjust to a different environment in the military,” the president said, commenting on the deaths among the marines. “We have to drastically change the barracks culture.”

    The Defense Ministry has announced a crackdown on beatings and other abuses in the military. It also vowed to eradicate a practice that many consider a bedrock of military life here but that has also been blamed for widespread brutality: the “order and obey” system, according to which soldiers and marines with seniority are encouraged to devise harsh penalties for their subordinates, and even beat them, in order to punish failure and enforce obedience to the smallest of rules and traditions. In some barracks, privates must get a superior’s permission even to use the bathroom.

    The system is especially strong in the marine corps, which accepts only volunteers and where members strongly adhere to a pecking order based on entry-class seniority — a new class arrives every two weeks. Many former marines remember with dread the five-pound pickax handle wielded by more senior marines as their favored flogging tool.

    To many veterans, the proposed changes threaten a cherished tradition and the South’s security, even as the North has continued provocations, including an attack in November on a South Korean island guarded by marines.

    “You obey marines from an earlier class as if they were gods,” said Kim Jong-ryeol, a 51-year-old former marine who runs a truck weighing station in Seoul. “This is what drives marines through a hail of bullets in wartime. What they’re trying to do now is to kill the marines’ soul, to turn them into sissies. The only one who’ll be pleased by this is Kim Jong-il,” the North Korean leader.
  2. Andy_S

    Andy_S LE Book Reviewer


    One of the veteran’s sons, Kim Soong-nyong, 26, who completed his service in the marines in 2008, agreed. “Everyone who volunteers for the marines knows that he’ll have to put up with beatings and other stuff that makes marines what they are: tough,” he said. “The military is not a summer camp for kids.”

    Times Topic: South KoreaBut the calls for change have grown more urgent since the wave of military deaths, and after a series of human rights reports lifted the veil on many harsh military practices.

    In March, the National Human Rights Commission criticized “customary and widespread beatings and cruelties” among marines and a “culture where subordinates consider enduring them a ‘marine corps tradition.’ ”

    At a recent news conference, the Center for Military Human Rights in Korea, a civic group, offered more details based on its interviews with current and recently discharged marines. The group told of victims who said they had been seared with hot spoons or burning cigarettes, or forced to eat insects or humiliate themselves in front of their superiors.

    Between early 2009 and last March, 943 cases of punctured eardrums, fractured ribs and other injuries believed to have been caused by beatings were reported in the country’s two marine divisions, according to a Defense Ministry study submitted to lawmakers after the July 4 shootings.

    One of the most feared punishments among marines, the one said to have been inflicted on the corporal accused in the July 4 shootings, is to be ostracized. Kim Soong-nyong, the former marine who completed his service in 2008, said the people subjected to such treatment were often believed to be “snitches.” He added, “You’re shunned and talked down to even by your subordinates,” a particularly humiliating experience in South Korea with its strict Confucian hierarchy. The military has yet to announce why the corporal was ostracized or reveal other details of his mistreatment.

    The effort to revamp military life has broader implications. “Garrison culture” has long been cited as a force that both drives and ails South Korean society.

    Since nearly all men are military veterans, the code of ethics they practice in their years in the services tends to bleed over into civilian life, and corporate offices. The benefits are clear: South Korea’s powerful companies and institutions carry out projects quickly and efficiently, many say, because of the ethos of not questioning orders and showing respect for superiors.

    Workers who fall short are often chided by colleagues who ask, “Weren’t you in the military?”

    But analysts have also blamed that same culture for stifling individual initiative, instilling tolerance of physical violence in school and at home and encouraging people in business or the government to turn a blind eye to corruption.

    “From their military service, South Korean men learn to tolerate irrationalities,” said Lim Tae-hoon, director of the Center for Military Human Rights in Korea.

    The carry-over between military service and civilian life is particularly strong for marines. When two former marines meet, they quickly establish their relative status by class. At that point, even decades past their service, the junior one will often snap to attention and shout the marine salute: “Loyalty!” Nearly every town has a veterans’ club. Former marines living abroad also maintain clubs, including outposts in New York and Madagascar.

    Such bonds are part of what attracts many to the marines.

    For Pvt. Chung Joon-hyok, who felt that lure, the decision turned tragic. The young man, who had interrupted his studies at a seminary where he was studying to become a Christian missionary, began doing push-ups and swimming laps months before his enlistment in order to ensure that he could qualify as a marine, his father said.

    Now he is under arrest, accused of conspiring with the corporal accused in the July 4 shootings to take revenge on marines who they said had harassed them. Investigators said Private Chung told them that a sergeant had once burned his Bible, boasting that he was “equal to God.” The private’s father, meanwhile, said his son’s arms were scarred from cigarette burns inflicted by fellow marines. Two marines have been arrested and charged with torturing him.

    “I’m sorry for the young men who were killed,” said Private Chung’s mother, Lee Myong-soon, 45, her eyes filling with tears. “But I think my son is a victim, too. I hope this will be an occasion for the military to end its evil practices, its cruel human rights violations.”
  3. You really need to buy a new tin foil hat.
  4. Bang this in the NAAFI,woof,woof,woof.
  5. I must say that I've never understood the thinking behind a culture that encourages beatings so bad that they cripple a certain number of recruits (or more likely conscripts). Ultimately it must be corrosive to discipline and trust.
  6. Andy_S

    Andy_S LE Book Reviewer


    Ultimately it must be corrosive to discipline and trust.

    On the contrary, the ROK Marines (and some British soldiers) I have met and discussed this with are of the opposite opinion: The brutalization process is something they are proud of, it is part of their intra-unit bonding. In short, they believe it breeds a tougher soldier.

    I am not saying there are/were right, but I am asking if this concept is alien to current UK military thinking...?
  7. You Sir are spouting absolute garbage. Brutlization is not an intrinsic part of any decent military training and you know it.
  8. Didnt do the Spartans no harm? it should be voluntary though, and no injuries caused.
  9. Holy fucking cunting shit.

    Since when did just posting a link to a page lose its panache? Why copy it all out, you dribbling fucktard?
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