South Korea soldier refuses to talk with investigators on shooting rampage

SEOUL (KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The captured sergeant from last weekend's shooting spree refused to speak about the killings during the first face-to-face talks with investigators at a hospital where he is recovering from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, a military source said.

"The Army's investigative authorities conducted the first round of their investigation into him on Wednesday as he regained consciousness," the source told the media on Thursday, declining to be named. "He refused to talk about the incident, saying he doesn't remember what happened."

The 22-year-old sergeant, identified only by his surname Lim, was transported to a civilian hospital in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, on Monday right after shooting himself in a suicide attempt.

Two days earlier, he killed five soldiers and wounded seven others in a shooting rampage in a frontline unit of the Army's 22nd Division.

On Thursday afternoon, he was sent to a military hospital in Gangneung, while the wounded soldiers were all moved to a military hospital in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province.

Amid a probe to determine the motives behind Lim's shooting spree, bullying is being cited as a possible cause. But the families of the victims responded angrily to that argument, saying that the victims were being treated as though they were to blame.

The families had demanded that Defence Minister Kim Kwan Jin apologised for indicating during a parliamentary session on Wednesday that bullying was a possible cause of the shooting.

"I think there was a problem with the way the military looks at each of our children. Each of them is the one and only for us," a bereaved father told the media.

During the parliamentary session, Minister Kim said: "What we call bullying is still in existence (at the barracks). But we are investigating whether it is the only cause (of his shooting rampage)."

In a display of their displeasure over Mr Kim's remarks, the families stopped all funeral preparations. The funeral ceremony was scheduled to be held on Friday morning with the two-star division commander presiding over the event at the military hospital in Seongnam.

The bereaved families also expressed discomfort as the ministry had previously argued that it would not reveal the content of Lim's suicide note in line with their wishes not to disclose it. The families said this was a lie by the ministry. In the suicide note, Lim is reported to have said that he was being bullied in the barracks.

Meanwhile, controversy over the ministry's use of a solider posing as Lim as a decoy to divert media attention escalated with media outlets denouncing the ministry for deceiving them and citizens. The ministry insisted that it did not lie.

At the eastern frontline unit where the shooting occurred, the military offered psychological treatment to service members there to prevent them from suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.