The parents of a South Korean conscript soldier who killed five of his comrades in a grenade and gun attack pleaded with him to surrender on Sunday after he exchanged fire with troops who had tracked him down near a school close to the North Korean border.
Late on Saturday night, the soldier threw a grenade and opened fire, killing five members of his unit and wounding seven others at an outpost in the base at Goseong county.
A manhunt went into full swing at daybreak, with helicopters sweeping the heavily forested hillsides while special forces took part in a search that, according to a colonel who briefed media, involved the equivalent of nine battalions. Discovered hiding near a school about six miles from the base, the soldier opened fire on troops, wounding a platoon leader in the arm, the YTN television news channel reported.
The parents of the soldier, according to the Yonhap news agency, were taken to the site, where his mother pleaded with him to surrender as a stand-off developed after the initial burst of gunfire.
“I heard several gunshots for 10 minutes,” Byun Sang-man, an 80-year-old farmer, said from the village. “We can’t go outside… Soldiers have spread out all around our town.”
A military official identified the soldier as Sgt Lim and said he was due to be discharged in September.
Following the shooting, the military threw a cordon around the search zone, including guard posts along the Demilitarised Zone, a 2.5‑mile wide swathe of land serving as a buffer between North and South Korea since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.
All able-bodied South Korean men must serve about two years in the military under a conscription system aimed at countering aggression from North Korea.
The defence ministry issued an apology to the nation over the shooting. “I offer my sincere apology to Koreans for causing worry,” Kim Min-seok, the ministry spokesman, said yesterday.
The military has faced criticism over incidents in the past. In 2011, a South Korean marine went on a shooting spree at a base near the tense maritime border with North Korea, killing four fellow soldiers before trying to blow himself up with a hand grenade.
South Korea is still in shock after the death of more than 300 people, mostly schoolchildren, in a ferry disaster in April.