Eight South Korean soldiers were killed and two others were seriously injured when a soldier went on a shooting rampage near the tense inter-Korean border, the defense ministry said.
The man, identified as private first class Kim, 22, threw a grenade and fired from his rifle into an army barracks where his colleagues were sleeping in northeastern Yeoncheon early Sunday, the ministry said.
Kim, under investigation after turning himself in, said he went on the shooting spree in a fit of rage because his senior colleagues had bullied him, according to the ministry.
“Eight soldiers were killed and two others were seriously injured in the incident involving a grenade and a rifle at a guard post at 2:30am Sunday,” the ministry said in a statement.
Twenty-five soldiers in their 20s were sleeping in the barracks at the time.
As well as the hand grenade, Kim used about 40 rounds of ammunition, leaving platoon leader Lieutenant Kim Jong-Myung and seven other enlisted soldiers dead.
Two others who suffered shot wounds to their legs were immediately airlifted to a nearby hospital to undergo surgery. They were in serious but not critical condition.
Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-Woong apologized for the shooting rampage, which he was told by President Roh Moo-Hyun to thoroughly investigate in order to prevent such an incident from happening again.
“As a minister in charge of national defense, I lower my head and make a sincere apology for the incident,” Yoon told a televised news conference.
“I express deep condolences to the soldiers and their bereaved family members. We will take through follow-up measures to prevent a similar incident from happening.”
President Roh Moo-Hyun earlier told Yoon over the phone: “It is very regrettable… Look into the cause of the incident and take all the steps to prevent its recurrence.”
Ministry officials refrained from commenting on the cause of the tragedy which they said was still under scrutiny, however they largely blamed it on stress in military life.
The attacker turned himself in shortly after the incident at Yeoncheon, 62 kilometers (38 miles) north of Seoul, which was just next to the tense military border with
“He got into a temper following verbal abuse by his senior soldiers. Details are still under investigation,” Brigadier General Jang Seok-Kyu, army spokesman, told a news conference.
Kim was not found to have any history of mental illness, Jang added.
The incident happened at a small guard post near the inter-Korean border, known as the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), that has separated the communist North and capitalist South for five decades.
Every South Korean man serves two years of mandatory military service. The two Koreas are still technically at war after the 1950-1953 Korean War ended in an armistice instead of a peace treaty.
South Korea’s military has constantly campaigned to decrease abuses or harassment by senior soldiers to their juniors. Physical assaults are subject to punishment.