South Korea

Manhunt on for South Korean border guard who killed five fellow soldiers

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 June, 2014, 4:57am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 June, 2014, 4:57am

A military manhunt was under way yesterday for a South Korean soldier who shot and killed five members of his own unit at a guard post on the border with North Korea.

"He shot dead five fellow soldiers, wounded five others and then fled the scene with his rifle and ammunition," an army spokesman said.

There was no immediate indication of what might have triggered the shooting, which occurred shortly after 8pm local time at a guard post on the eastern section of the heavily-guarded Korean border.

The post was located just outside the demilitarised zone (DMZ) - a buffer strip that runs the full length of the 250-kilometre frontier. The spokesman said the five wounded soldiers were taken to a military hospital and a manhunt had been launched for the armed renegade guard.

Because the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a ceasefire rather than a peace treaty, the two Koreas technically remain at war. The DMZ is known as the world's last cold war frontier, and separates the thriving capitalist south from isolated, impoverished North Korea which has defied the world with its nuclear drive.

Many of the South Korean soldiers on border duty are young recruits doing their mandatory military service. The South Korean army has taken strong steps in recent years to stamp out the bullying of new conscripts, which has been blamed for similar shooting incidents in the past as well as a number of suicides.

In July 2011, a 19-year-old marine killed four colleagues in a shooting spree on Ganghwa island, which is near the border.

He tried to kill himself with a grenade, but survived.

Nearly all able-bodied South Korean men between the ages of 18 and 35 must undergo at least two years of military service or face imprisonment.

The South Korean military relies heavily on conscription. Military service often involves postings to front-line positions on the border with North Korea.