this (and more) to say about calls for reform in the South Korean armed forces:
Calls for sweeping reform to barrack-room culture are all too familiar. Physical abuse in South Korea’s 650,000-strong conscript army has long been tolerated as a means to toughen troops against a northern army thought to be twice as large. Two military coups and a long period of martial law (under the current president’s late father, Park Chung-hee) have given the army exceptional leeway in how it conducts its affairs. It is largely immune from democratic oversight.
That means tormentors are not properly punished. Around 150 bodies remain in the army’s morgue. Their cause of death is given as “failure to adjust to military life”. But relatives refuse to collect the bodies because they want an independent investigation to confirm the cause of death. Military courts, says Choe Kang-wook, a former lawyer in the army, are the “shame of South Korea”. High-ranking generals without legal knowledge preside over court proceedings.