SEOUL (Korea Herald/Asia News Network) - An army sergeant has been sentenced to death by a military court for killing five soldiers in a shooting rampage at a guard post near the inter-Korean border last year.
The 23-year-old soldier, identified only by his surname Lim, was charged with murder for the shooting last June at his unit in the 22nd Army Division in Goseong, Gangwon Province. Seven others were wounded in the assault.
Lim was also found guilty of defecting from his unit with weapons and killing a superior officer. A soldier who kills a superior officer can be sentenced to death, according to South Korea's military laws.
"The accused has committed a tenacious and elaborate crime. A death penalty is inevitable for the cruelty of gunning down innocent comrades," the General Military Court of the First Army Headquarters in Wonju, Gangwon Province, said on Tuesday during sentencing.
"He also discarded his duties as a soldier to protect the safety and property of people. (The court) must hold him accountable for causing a severe security vacuum, and sound an alarm against such a horrid crime."
The court also pointed out that rather than apologise to the victims, Lim complained about his own sufferings and blamed fellow soldiers for the deaths.
Investigators had said the sergeant must receive capital punishment for "committing a ruthless and premeditated crime against unarmed men".
They added that he had shown no signs of remorse and attempted to justify his crimes by saying he had been bullied by his colleagues in the barracks.
A month before the incident, Lim had reportedly been involved in a quarrel with another soldier.
His legal representative complained that the court had ignored several testimonies proving that Lim had been bullied, and said he would launch an appeal.
A family representative of the victims said it was an "obvious ruling" and urged authorities to make sure such an incident would not reoccur.
A psychiatric evaluation of Lim released in January indicated signs of paranoia typically found in bullying victims, but concluded that these were within a normal range.
At 8:15pm on June 21, Lim detonated a grenade and opened fire in and outside his unit's barracks, killing or injuring a dozen soldiers. He then fled the scene with a K-2 rifle, 60 bullets and a grenade.
He was captured the next day north of the Civilian Access Control Line near the border after a gunfight with troops attempting to catch him.
Lim joined the Army in December 2012 for his mandatary military service and was to be discharged last September.
The case is the worst military killing spree since 2005, when a soldier killed eight people and left two seriously injured. It also underscored the immense stress general outpost units are forced to endure, including the physical and mental pressure of having to stand guard for long hours in an isolated area.
Right before the accident, Lim had conducted vigilance duty for nearly six hours.
A 2012 report published by the Korea Armed Forces Nursing Academy showed that about 12.8 percent of GOP soldiers were heavily stressed, due mainly to "lack of personal time" and the "tedious and unchanging work".