South Korea recruits to be allowed visitors on weekdays, mobile phone use

South Korean soldiers take part in an anti-terror drill in Seoul on Aug 18, 2014. South Korea's defence ministry is implementing measures such as allowing recruits to receive visits by their girlfriends or families on weekdays as well as use the
South Korean soldiers take part in an anti-terror drill in Seoul on Aug 18, 2014. South Korea's defence ministry is implementing measures such as allowing recruits to receive visits by their girlfriends or families on weekdays as well as use their unit's mobile phones, as it seeks to improve a "rigid" military culture following a spate of soldier deaths. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL (KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - South Korea's defence ministry is implementing measures such as allowing recruits to receive visits by their girlfriends or families on weekdays as well as use their unit's mobile phones, as it seeks to improve a "rigid" military culture following a spate of soldier deaths.

"We declare September as the month for the beginning of an open, trustworthy military culture. From Sept 1, we will implement a series of measures put forward by the special panel tasked with improving the military culture," said the ministry in a press release on Sunday.

The military previously allowed recruits to meet visitors only on weekends or holidays.

Soldiers at frontline units, however, will be allowed to receive visitors only on weekends due to their security duty, officials said. They had not been allowed to meet visitors previously.

The military will also test-run a system in which it would offer unit cellphones to be shared among soldiers with the same ranks, officials said.

In July, the ministry established a panel to reform the military culture in the wake of a series of hazing and abuse cases, some of which led to suicide and even a shooting spree in June. The panel is comprised of civilian experts, government officials, recruits and parents of enlisted soldiers.

Last month, the panel held its first meeting and picked four tasks that it said should be immediately implemented. They included ensuring 24-hour communication between recruits and parents, allowing soldiers to meet visitors on weekdays and making sure that soldiers can choose the days for their allotted leave of absence.