Above photo: Major General Lee Sang-hun of the Marine Corps briefs reporters on the investigation into Sgt. Lim’s deadly rampage. Image via NEWSIS/Korean JoongAng Daily.
by JULIE HA
The South Korean army sergeant who opened fire on his fellow troops this past June was repeatedly mocked by his comrades, an experience that recalled painful bullying he faced as a youth, investigators revealed, according to the Daily Mirror.
Armed with a rifle, the 22-year-old soldier, whom authorities identify only as Sergeant Lim, killed five and wounded several others on June 21 at an outpost in Gangwon Province, near the heavily armed border with North Korea. An intense manhunt followed, as Lim escaped into the forest and was eventually captured after a failed suicide attempt.
On Tuesday, Brig. Gen. Seon Jong-chul of the South Korean Army police told reporters that Yim grew enraged after discovering drawings on the back of his unit’s border patrol log that portrayed him as various cartoon characters, including SpongeBob SquarePants. Other soldiers were similarly caricatured, but Lim still felt targeted and set out to get back at them.
“Other troops saw it as a small joke, but (Lim) said he had been greatly distressed by it,” said Seon, as quoted by the Mirror. He added that the cartoons “triggered a flashback” to high school bullying that Lim had endured.
“It turned out that Lim also planned to kill his friends in high school after he was bullied,” said Seon, according to the Korea JoongAng Daily.
Defense Ministry officials earlier stated that Lim was initially placed with a group of soldiers considered unfit for frontline duty, after results of a personality test from last April. However, another round of testing done this past November declared that he had shown enough improvement to serve on the frontline.
Yim, who was just a few months away from completing his two years of mandatory military service, as required in Korea, faces multiple charges of murder, attempted murder and stealing military equipment. After his capture, he was treated for a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his chest.
Military officials released on Tuesday a note Lim had left before trying to take his own life.
“Killing someone is a serious [crime] regardless of whatever they did to me,” read the note, according to a translation in the JoongAng Daily. “But if anyone was in my shoes, living would have been a torture just like dying. I’m to blame, but ‘they’ are to blame as well.
“There is a saying that recklessly throwing a rock can kill a frog,” the note said. “They did not consider how their behavior, like teasing a dog or killing bugs without guilt, would be painful to others.”
The newspaper said that the military is holding Lim’s division commander, battalion commander and company commander responsible for the incident and thereby has dismissed them from their duties.
The JoongAng Daily also reported that the seven soldiers injured in the two-day manhunt for Lim were actually wounded by friendly fire and that Lim did not engage with his pursuers.