A new recruit at an army training camp in Pyongyang was recently beaten by his superior officer and later permitted to return home after showing signs of mental distress. In protest, the soldiers’ family has sent a petition to the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), Daily NK sources report.
The camp where the beating took place is in Mirim-dong, located in Pyongyang’s Sadong District. The camp is managed by North Korea’s Department of Construction, a Pyongyang-based source told Daily NK. Soldiers who complete their training at the camp are deployed to the 7th and 8th People’s Security Force General Bureau.
The source told Daily NK that camp authorities permitted the soldier to go home with an “honorable discharge” document which stated that “after entering the camp, he displayed a mental state unfit for military life.” The soldier’s family, however, protested to camp authorities that he “was fine before he left but in the space of a couple of days [at the camp] had become mentally dysfunctional.”
“The soldier was deemed mentally fit to serve when he first entered the training camp, but just two months later he returned home in an unsound state of mind. His parents are highly distressed,” said the source. “They believe that he was beaten violently at the camp and strongly protested about his treatment to camp authorities.”
The soldier told his family that he had been repeatedly beaten by his superior at the camp, that his head wouldn’t stop hurting and his body felt feverish, the source added.
Beatings in the North Korean military are widely reported. The prison-like existence that soldiers face at military camps, along with the lack of food, leads to beatings to maintain discipline. Military officers widely believe that the beating of fresh recruits at training camps is considered a “rite of passage” they must face.
The soldier’s superior officer was investigated by camp authorities after the family’s protest. The investigation found that the officer had beaten the soldier repeatedly over the head with a stick for failing to adapt to the training regimen. The soldier complained of pain after the beating and was then placed in the camp’s hospital for several days without treatment.
The officer had reportedly beaten numerous other new recruits and was infamous at the camp for making their lives miserable, the source said.
“The camp authorities failed to arrange treatment for the battered soldier and deemed him unfit for duty and sent him home. They cited mental dysfunction, due to him talking nonsense in a very weakened state,” said a separate source in the capital.
“At first, the authorities said that the soldier had developed a mental injury from ‘natural causes,’ rather than the beating, but after the family protested, they acknowledged it was caused by the beating.”
Severe beatings in the North Korean military can lead to punishment of the perpetrators, whether they are lowly soldiers or even officers. The military does not provide compensation to victims, however.
“The soldier’s family sent a petition to the Central Party because they want to punish the people responsible,” the additional source said.