The Korea Herald


State should compensate for soldier’s death 54 years ago: Court

By Lee Jung-youn

Published : April 9, 2023 - 14:04

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The court has ordered the state to provide compensation to the bereaved family of a soldier who committed suicide in the 1960s, after enduring intense training and harassment. This ruling comes 54 years after the soldier's death.

According to legal sources on Sunday, the Seoul Central District Court ruled that the state should pay a net total of some 19 million won ($14,400) per person to the three brothers of the deceased soldier, whose name remains unknown.

The deceased was found dead in the mountain a day after he disappeared while returning to the unit during training in August 1969, about three months after joining the Army. According to a probe by the military's investigation committee, the deceased committed suicide five days after being deployed to a training unit set to be dispatched to the Vietnam War.

In March 2022, the committee concluded that the soldier’s death resulted from beatings and abuse, which was prevalent in the military at the time, and negligence in unit management of superiors. The Defense Ministry also decided to admit the soldier’s death as a death in the line of duty in November 2022.

In a lawsuit filed by the bereaved family, the government denied responsibility, saying, "It is not objectively confirmed that the state neglected the management of the troop or violated the duty of protection, and it does not appear that the state was able to predict or avoid the deceased soldier’s death."

However, the court pointed out that "the commanders did not take away the gun from the soldier who was not feeling well during training, and ordered him to return to the unit without any protection. They also did not take action even though they knew about the harassment."

The court determined that the deceased soldier could have earned 52 million won had he survived, and ordered the state to pay 50 percent of that amount to his surviving family members. The compensation for mental suffering was set at 20 million won for the deceased, 10 million won for his deceased mother, and 8 million won for each brother.