GOP rampage suspect captured, but questions remain

The soldier who went on a rampage at his DMZ guard post in Gangwon-do has been caught—alive, no less—but the story is by no means over.

The Ministry of Defense is saying there are a lot of potential problem soldiers in the military. How many, you might ask? This many:

Speaking at a June 23 morning briefing on a recent incident in which a soldier identified by his surname Lim fatally shot five colleagues, ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok explained, “The 22nd Infantry Division [where Lim worked] has around 1,800 troops listed as ‘requiring special attention’ in the three categories of A, B, and C, or about 20% of all troops.”

Kim went on to say, “They’re not all clustered in the 22nd Division. There’s just generally a lot of soldiers that require attention.”

When asked by a reporter if the issue extended throughout the military, Kim said, “I believe the rate is similar [around 20%] for the military as a whole.”

Lim was one such soldier:

According to the Army, Lim enlisted in December 2012 after his freshman year in college and was assigned to the 22nd division in February 2013.

However, he was sidelined from performing patrols at the border in April last year following the outcome of a military-conducted personality test, which showed that he required special attention.

Lim’s test results put him in the highest Level A, indicating that he needed extra supervision and was mentally unfit to perform the border patrols. Level C is for those who just joined the Army less than four months ago or are deemed too weak to perform their duties.

But just seven months later, the sergeant was downgraded to Level B, which enabled him to perform border patrol duties, a task that carries a high risk. One military official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that Lim’s unit downgraded his personality assessment because he had shown improvement in his character in the time since.

The problem, both military and non-military folk say, is that the army’s chronic manpower shortages—which won’t be getting any better—make it necessary to put “soldiers of interest” on the DMZ for guard duty. One army captain who lead a platoon on the DMZ told Newsis that in some platoons, half the guys are “soldiers of interest.”

Meanwhile, the military response to the incident is being criticized for being something of a clusterfuck, with poor communication between the military and the police, belated orders to evacuate civilians, and a friendly fire incident in which one trooper almost got his head blown off.

As for why a guy with only three months left in the service would go postal, it appears he was just a very introverted guy who did not get along with his fellow soldiers and, on a practical level, may have been treated lower than his actual rank.

UPDATE: Great, if somewhat disconcerting, photograph from the standoff:

  • http://www.bcarr.com/ Brendon Carr

    I’m going to go out on a limb and assume the “special attention” Lim received from superiors was the proximate cause of his actions. I’ve heard hair-raising accounts of some of this special attention.

  • MikeinGyeonggi

    So his personality test put him in the highest level of “special attention,” yet he was promoted to sergeant within 18 months of enlisting?

  • http://thekoreanforeigner.blogspot.kr/ John Lee

    Korean conscripts move up the rank as long as they put their time in. Although there are PT, shooting skills, and 정신교육 that soldiers have to pass in order to be promoted on time, even if they don’t pass, their promotion will be typically delayed by only a month or two.

    That is why if you compare a PFC in the Korean Army and a PFC in the US Army, there is a world of difference.

  • flyingsword

    Every conscript gets promoted in the ROK army, all will leave a sergeant. No schooling, promotion test, or board required.

  • flyingsword

    Doesn’t say much for the state of South Korean youth.

    U.S. has similar problems finding qualified recruits. Between behavioral issues (ADD, ADHD, etc); obesity, and other conditions less and less of the population is qualified to be in the military.

    Guess that is happening here in Korea too…

  • http://thekoreanforeigner.blogspot.kr/ John Lee

    It’s hard to say, really. In my experience, when I was in the ROK Army, I saw plenty of soldiers who were designated as requiring special attention. They were usually left alone and only given simple menial tasks to perform. One such soldier that I saw, who was really quite hopeless, was made to run the PX. Others were put on suicide watch, which meant that someone had eyes on him at all times – 24/7.

    There have been instances, and I’m sure there still are, of senior conscripts physically abusing the lower ranking conscripts. However, there is a reason why it gets in the news. It’s gotten very rare over the years. Furthermore, the Army has completely changed the way that soldiers live in the barracks. In the past, a squad that had about ten soldiers from private to sergeant all lived in the same room together. But now, all the rooms have been divided by rank. All the sergeants live in one room, the corporals in another, etc. etc.

    This guy complained that he wasn’t treated according to his rank. From what I have seen, that can only mean that he was generally incompetent. So, when he was a private, he was most likely looked down upon by his superiors and his peers. However, although his rank went up, when new soldiers arrived, it didn’t take them long to figure out that his rank was meaningless and didn’t show him any respect because they were most likely more competent than he was.

    That could be the straw that broke the camel’s back – his bruised ego.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    JL, can you verify that his rank actually translates to Sergeant, as in non-commissioned officer? My wife said that “Sergeant” was not an accurate translation and that he was just a “regular” soldier. But what would she know about the military, military ranks in Korea, and their equivalents in English?

    Making sergeant in less than two years seems impossibly fast absent in peace time. (I know one anonymous G.I. Joe who did so in the US Army, but he was an exceptional case.)

    I read that he enlisted after his first year in university, whereas most conscripts “volunteer” after their second year or later, so he would be among the youngest of his platoon. I wonder whether his age played some part in his disrespect, if he indeed was disrespected.

    As far as his competence, I wonder how he could have gotten promoted so fast if he were truly incompetent.

    EDIT: OK, you answered my question here.

  • MikeinGyeonggi

    Sounds like taekwondo here, where every man, woman, and child is promoted to black belt as long as the teacher gets paid on time.

  • http://thekoreanforeigner.blogspot.kr/ John Lee

    His rank in Korean is 병장. There is no equivalent to it in the US Army, or in any other military in the world if I am not mistaken. That is why they are called “sergeant.”

    The conscript ranks are as follows:

    이등병 – Private

    일병 – Private First Class

    상병 – Corporal

    병장 – “sergeant”

    The NCO ranks are as follows:

    하사 – Staff Sergeant

    중사 – Sergeant First Class

    상사 – Master Sergeant

    원사 – Sergeant Major

    준위 – Warrant Officer

    And as I said to MikeinGyeonggi:

    Korean conscripts move up the rank as long as they put their time in. Although there are PT, shooting skills, and 정신교육 that soldiers have to pass in order to be promoted on time, even if they don’t pass, their promotion will be typically delayed by only a month or two.

    That is why if you compare a PFC in the Korean Army and a PFC in the US Army, there is a world of difference.

    I’m not sure about age being a factor. When I was in ROK Army, I was a lot older than the other conscripts. In fact, I was older than most of the junior NCOs too. But everyone made sure, myself included, that age was not important and that rank was instead.

  • Aja Aja

    The point of moving their ranks up because they served their time should be re-looked at. If they’re incompetent they should not move up. I know Korean military is just following the traditional Korean corporate practices, but of all the institutions that cries out for only the competent people to be in charge, is the military. It boggles my mind that this is 2014, and South Korea’s military is still operating this way.

  • redwhitedude

    Not sure if that is relevant to this particular case but I’m going to go on a limb to say that mental health services is an area that Korean military needs to work on. I get the feeling it is all swept under the rug issues like this, and the military is not for everybody.

    I think the government needs to work on helping people out in doing a better job in providing alternatives to military service depending on the psychological profile. I know they do, there are people who go do their service in the police and so forth, especially since it is a conscripted military.

  • redwhitedude

    I’m going to preempt certain netizens will say that this shows it is “cultural” for Koreans to go postal a la that virginia tech massacre. It’s really pathetic that crowd. Don’t be too shocked if you run into this kind of trolling.

  • RElgin

    Mental health issues should be focused upon by this administration. This is an area that has sorely been lacking attention. Easier access to mental healthcare and better education regarding mental issues should be addressed because there is a tremendous need for such in Korean society.

    I have a lot of respect for these guys that do their duty for their country but the issue of mental healthcare is something that is not being adequately addressed for all sectors of society here and not just the men.

  • http://thekoreanforeigner.blogspot.kr/ John Lee

    First, I don’t know of any corporation that continues to employ, much less promote, employees that are incompetent. In fact, unless thwarted by unions, businesses tend to be more than happy to let incompetent workers go.

    Second, I think I should clarify that only conscripts are promoted simply for putting in their time. As far as officers are concerned, NCOs and COs, promotion is definitely a merit-based system; and it is much harder to get promoted and promotions becomes increasingly difficult the higher up you go.

  • http://thekoreanforeigner.blogspot.kr/ John Lee

    I think it might be cultural problem rather than a political one. But that’s just my two cents.

  • bigmamat

    Any American that comes up with “it’s cultural” is full of shit…..

  • bigmamat

    Doesn’t Korea lack in mental health services for the general populace as well?

  • redwhitedude

    Well anybody who comes up with that is full of it. I wasn’t thinking of Americans but also certain elements in the nets such as those in 2ch and so forth.

  • bigmamat

    They would be other Asians I presume?

  • wangkon936

    Personally, I think Americans should be the last people to criticize, considering how many more shooters that society creates.

  • bigmamat

    Yeah my thoughts exactly…the shoot first ask questions later nation.

  • wangkon936

    Yes, including cops. U.S. cops nowadays scare the hell out of me. Less so 10 years ago. If you get pulled over make sure your hands are clearly visible at all times otherwise he might think your gum wrapper was a 9mm pistol.

  • wangkon936

    Yes. That system is really annoying. It dilutes the value of the black belt.

  • bigmamat

    The entire country has become one big Bruce Willis movie.

  • redwhitedude

    Yup. With the pressure cooker to get into SKY and all. But then again it’s not like Korea is the only one that suffers from that issue.

  • redwhitedude

    Most likely. Or some douche bag westerner who has endless complaints about the country.

  • redwhitedude

    Americans need to do a better job screening people. The way it stands now they are pretty good at screening out people who have prior criminal records. However they don’t do a good job in psychological screenings for people who have no prior criminal record and look for red flags. That and also the issue of stolen guns which is the reason why a lot of shootings happen.

    Still countries should not stop the effort. Just like the US department telling other countries to crack down on human trafficking even though it happens in the US.

  • wangkon936

    It’s the increased paramilitarization of the police force that’s the issue, not necessarily the selection process.

  • bigmamat

    I don’t want to get into an American gun control debate on a blog about Korea. I’ll just say that the US is a lot bigger than Korea, has a larger more diverse population and it’s a republic where states have a large portion of legislative control. America’s problems are very often uniquely American.

  • bigmamat

    Agreed. Ever since local police forces were flooded with Homeland Security money.

  • wangkon936

    On a per capita basis, the U.S. is a more violent country than Korea.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate

  • bigmamat

    Yeah I said earlier it’s just one big Bruce Willis movie….

  • redwhitedude

    Paramilitarization or not better background checks are the way to go.

  • redwhitedude

    It’s the 4th or 5th die hard movie.

  • bigmamat

    Well that would require something at the national level and a data base to go with it…so you see the problem, or maybe you don’t.

  • redwhitedude

    Comparing US to Korea is comparing Apples to Oranges. Regardless of what the laws are whether it be outright ban of civilian ownership of guns or not there still needs to be better background checks on people.

  • bigmamat

    Just because you say it enough times doesn’t mean it will come true…

  • redwhitedude

    It has to start somewhere. It’s not perfect especially if it involves certain countries who’s law enforcement is either corrupt lack funding and so forth. But that shouldn’t stop the effort.

  • redwhitedude

    Huh? Having background checks benefits in other crimes not just gun related.

  • wangkon936

    병장 is typically translated as “sergeant,” but is it really sergeant as the U.S. Army or Marines would understand it to be? A Korean 병장 is not an NCO, for example.

    Non-NCOs are given stripes, rather than chevrons as their rank’s insignia, correct? NCOs are given chevrons. A 병장 is given four stripes, but no chevrons. One chevron for the lowest ranking NCO in the Korean army, a staff sergeant (하사). Two chevrons for a sergeant first class (중사) and so on.

    http://kookbang.dema.mil.kr/kookbangWeb/m/view.do?ntt_writ_date=20120321&parent_no=1&bbs_id=BBSMSTR_000000000004

    Question. Do 병장s command squads?

  • wangkon936

    Speaking of greater screening…

  • bigmamat

    Well I don’t want to debate American gun control but perhaps you should just do a little google search on background checks to get an idea why that doesn’t work. It’s a lot of reasons including “political will”.

  • bigmamat

    No what I meant is ….people have been calling for stiffer background checks for years….so I guess you can join their ranks.

  • wangkon936

    The main difference is that the Korean army is conscripted, not volunteer. The Korean army has to make due with a more diverse pool of individuals from the general population. To discourage draft dodging, the Korean army probably has to take in those that may be trying to claim have a mental disability.

  • redwhitedude

    Obviously it is better to do that rather than more paralimilitarization. That’s the problem “political will”.

  • redwhitedude

    So be it.

  • bigmamat

    Here’s what I actually think. I think Americans need to stop needing guns. It doesn’t matter how many background checks you have if your 5 year old can get his hands on your gun and shoot his 2 year old sister. It doesn’t matter how many background checks there are if unsecured guns are in the house and your hormone filled teenager or bipolar nephew uses them to shoot up a school. It doesn’t matter how many background checks we have if the next time some drug addled thief breaks into your house he finds an arsenal he can sell on the black market. American just needs to take a chill. We need to stop thinking that violence will solve all our problems. We need to stop declaring “war” on everything and start valuing human life more if not our own at least our children’s. We need an attitude change not a law we can’t enforce.

  • redwhitedude

    Somebody mentioned about lack of “political will” in banning guns or at the very least, really cracking down on semiautomatic rifles. Do you really need those to say, go hunting?

  • bigmamat

    No you don’t need semiautomatic rifles. Those and handguns are designed to kill people. I’m the one that said there was no political will….

  • redwhitedude

    Criminal acts tend to be committed by people who stole those from legit owners and those that have no prior records who may have issues.

  • http://thekoreanforeigner.blogspot.kr/ John Lee

    His rank in Korean is 병장. There is no equivalent to it in the US Army, or in any other military in the world if I am not mistaken. That is why they are called “sergeant.” But they are not an NCO.

    The conscript ranks are as follows:

    이등병 – Private
    일병 – Private First Class
    상병 – Corporal
    병장 – “sergeant”

    A 병장 serves several purposes. Normally, a 병장 is the default squad leader as he is the most experienced soldier. However, that doesn’t happen all the time. There are some soldiers whose MOS forces them to be apart from the rest of their squad. For example, some soldiers have to spend most of their time at the command center with other senior ranking officers or others have to be in the mess hall. These soldiers cannot be squad leader, but they will be the leader of the MOS group he is in.

    Secondly, he is the platoon leader’s “man on the ground.” If the platoon leader issues any orders, which he/she himself received from someone else above him, he/she will relay those orders to the squad leader who in turn will issue those orders to the rest of the squad.

    Thirdly, being the most experienced soldier in the squad (or MOS group) and seeing how his discharge date is coming up soon, his other role is to serve as an educator for other conscripts. A platoon leader can only do so much. He is also in charge of maintaining squad discipline and morale. If it is deemed that the squad’s discipline and morale are substandard, it’s his ass on the line.

    Fourthly, if there are any sorts of complaints, dissatisfaction, suggestions, interpersonal conflicts, etc., before those matters get brought to the attention of the officers, the 병장 is responsible for proactively dealing with it first. If, for any reason, the 병장 feels that he does not have the authority or the ability to fix those problems himself, then he speaks to the platoon commander. There is a chain of command that has to be respected.

    Finally, in war time, there are 병장s (only the most competent ones) that get promoted to 하사 whereby they begin to serve the rest of their military service (which can be extended indefinitely during war time) as an NCO. However, if a war really did break out, every 병장 will most likely be promoted to 하사 whether they are deemed competent or not.

  • wangkon936

    Methinks 병장 was created to keep Confucian social order among the draftees, especially among the ones that were close to being out of the army and those that had been around for a year or less.

    Someone with English as good as yours… wouldn’t you have been qualified to be a KATUSA?

  • http://thekoreanforeigner.blogspot.kr/ John Lee

    I’m not entirely sure if it was influenced by Confucianism. In fact, in my experience, the military is the least “Confucian” compared to all other aspects of Korean society. Though I have no proof or knowledge, I have an inkling that it was influenced by the Japanese military. After all, a lot of the early Korean military officers in the late 1940s were mostly educated in Japanese military academies prior to independence.

    I could have qualified for the KATUSA. However, as you might or might nor be aware, getting accepted to KATUSA is also based on a lottery. Furthermore, there are only so many times a year when soldiers are selected for the KATUSA. I didn’t want to wait that long as I just wanted to get it over and done with quickly. So I signed up for the regular ROK Army.

  • wangkon936

    “I have an inkling that it was influenced by the Japanese military.”

    That makes sense too.

  • http://thekoreanforeigner.blogspot.kr/ John Lee

    I have heard that there were such benefits, yes. And that is presumably why a lot of people wait in line for the KATUSA.

    But I was a lot older than the typical conscript when I joined up. Like I said elsewhere, I was also older than the junior NCOs and COs. I didn’t want to dick around and wait for something that might or might not have happened. Time was important to me than those other possible benefits.

  • wangkon936

    I hear ya. Oh, you also get U.S. and Korean holidays off too.

  • redwhitedude

    Yeah I heard it is very sought after posting because it is a cushier posting to spend your time in the military.

  • Tapp

    And I think it might be more of a worldwide problem than a cultural one. Koreans don’t do much to help the mentally ill, but what country does?

  • Tapp

    What’s the “GOP” stand for in the article title? Maybe I’m just slow this morning, but I can’t figure it out.

  • Seoulgoodman

    Yet another clusterfuck which convinces me that my decision to leave this country was the right one.

    Speaking of clusterfucks…Remember how the local media and its corporate sponsors tried to scare people into thinking that a strong won would mean doom for the economy, and therefore lead to unemployment? Well, turns out they were full of shit.

    http://www.thestar.com.my/Business/Business-News/2014/06/25/S-Korea-exports-expected-to-rise-5pt1pc-this-year/

  • Seoulgoodman

    Yes, being a sergeant after such a short period of service is ludicrous. Sure, if it was a battlefield promotion, but that’s not what’s happening. They hand out promotions to conscripts like a hagwon teacher hands out candy to her students.

  • Seoulgoodman

    Nope. The cultural factor involved is the fact that Koreans are loathe to seek psychiatric care when needed (hence the high suicide rate). It’s not just my opinion, but that of my wife who’s a health care professional. She knows what she’s talking about.

  • redwhitedude

    I don’t deny that but what I was referring was that Korean culture is a culture of mass murder which is incorrect. However even in the US it is difficult to get people to admit to psychological issues and seek treatment.

  • Seoulgoodman

    Yes, that’s essentially the attitude in Canada. We can have guns, they are legal to own, but most of us just don’t see the point. Heck, lots of us don’t even lock our doors. Besides, there are better ways to spend money.

  • Seoulgoodman

    Doesn’t change that fact that the gun culture in the US is a dysfunctional one.

  • A Korean

    So how’s your wife coping with your PMS?

  • Seoulgoodman

    Tell me about it. My kid just got his black belt here. He was the only kid who exhibited what I consider black belt level skills during the test (I started doing taekwondo in the mid ’80s and was trained here for a while by a former world champion)…and there were at least a hundred kids being tested (I assume most, if not all, passed). It was a surreal.

  • Seoulgoodman

    “Methinks 병장 was created to keep Confucian social order among the
    draftees, especially among the ones that were close to being out of the
    army and those that had been around for a year or less.”

    I think you hit the nail on the head. After all, a 병장 is basically a glorified private.

  • Seoulgoodman

    “I have an inkling that it was influenced by the Japanese military.”

    No, I think it’s a Korean thing that predates the Japanese invasion since the South Korean and North Korean armed forces share the same rank structure, which is different from that of Imperial Japan’s army.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Army_ranks_of_the_Japanese_Empire_during_World_War_II

  • Seoulgoodman

    My thoughts exactly. Things need to change because this leads to incidents such as this one and suicides.

  • Seoulgoodman

    It’s both.

  • Seoulgoodman

    It’s much worse here, though. Back in North America, in comparison, we tend to be more open to the idea of seeking help for depression, stress, and anxiety.

    Remember, calling someone ‘crazy’ is a sure and easy way to escalate an argument here.

  • Seoulgoodman

    I don’t suffer from PMS, I’m not a Korean man.

  • A Korean

    Hm… Maybe it’s the froggy variety that afflicts flamey types? Might wanna take up your own advice and consult with a mental health clinic. If not for you, for the sake of people around you.

    Not telling you what to do, just a suggestion out of concern. :)

    Best of luck.

  • A Korean

    Guard/observation post is my guess.

  • Seoulgoodman

    So, you’re sexist and racist? Nice to know that you’re working hard to perpetuate the stereotypes about Korean men.

  • A Korean

    I understand you are under duress, but you are the one yapping about “Korean man”.

    Oh well. Good luck. And I do mean it.

  • Tapp

    Thank you. Despite living here for quite awhile, I’m still too American. I see GOP and I automatically think of the conservative US political party, the Republicans.

  • Seoulgoodman

    So, you’re sexist and racist? Nice to know that you’re working hard to perpetuate the stereotypes about Korean men. Maybe you should change your nickname to “IMakeKoreansLookBad”.

  • Seoulgoodman

    So, you’re one of those, trying hard to perpetuate the stereotypes about Korean men, eh? Maybe you should change your nickname to “IMakeMyPeopleLookBad”.

  • Seoulgoodman

    Sure, you’re a pain in the ass, but duress?

    Yapping about “Korean man”? No, I’m criticizing the Korean government. As a voter, it’s my right. If you can’t accept that, then that’s your problem, not mine.

  • A Korean

    Let me be serious for a second.

    If coming here ranting and blowing some steam off helps you get through the day, more power to you. But if it’s something more serious, well… maybe it’s something you may want to consult with trusty friends or people with expertise, as you yourself have touched on the topic earlier.

    Well, enough of that. Now back to ball busting. :)

  • Seoulgoodman

    Oh, so you’re a PGH groupie who takes offence at my criticism of your precious little princess? Clearly, you’re the one who’s got issues.

  • redwhitedude

    The right to bear arms is really unnecessary and I do agree.

  • redwhitedude

    It is easier but there are still instances that people won’t admit to it though. I think part of the reason why Korean culture aggravates it is that there is a emphasis in conformity. There is a proverb that if a nail sticks out you hammer it in.

  • wangkon936

    That has its merits too. Remember, we are talking about a society that requires strict adherence to protocol (i.e. junior calling senior hyung or unni) even if the senior is one day older.

  • wangkon936

    Well, minor mental disability doesn’t necessarily mean more violent.

    It could be hazing at fault too….

    Remember this Kubrick stare?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70mmkoZrRsM

    It could also be argued that diversity in the ranks could also cause violence. Remember this Fort Hood clusterfuck?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009_Fort_Hood_shooting

  • Seoulgoodman

    Probably. People certainly don’t speak their minds openly about certain things here.

  • Seoulgoodman

    I would think it has a negative affect on motivation, though (not that motivation would be high otherwise).

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Americans will stop needing guns when the facts on the ground change.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Who do you think they are protecting themselves from? People with automatic weapons

  • Seoulgoodman

    Maybe you’re taking the movie too literally. Look at Private Pyle’s behaviour before the hazing. He was grinning as if he found the whole process childish and pointless since he was not the violent type. Yes, one of the major themes of the movie is how war dehumanizes. The suicide had to happen because it’s a turning point in Joker’s development (he later wears the ironic Born to Kill on his helmet and the peace sign pin).

  • wangkon936

    Okay, this might be helpful.

    병장’s hanja is 兵長.

    兵= a soldier, but not officer; private; corporal; lance corporal.

    長= long, as in long hair.

    So, the hanja would imply senior common solider/grunt.

    In contrast 하사’s (translated as “staff sergeant”) hanja is 下士.

    下= under, underneath, below, inferior.

    士= Hummmm…. I little more nuanced. Three interesting subdefinitions:

    1. scholar, gentleman

    2. soldier, non-commissioned officer

    3. A certain Chinese chess (xiangqi) piece

    Another interesting note. 兵 (byung) is used for all Korean enlisted men (from private to sergeant)

    All NCO sergeants (from staff to Sergeant Major) all have the hanja of 士 (sa)

  • wangkon936

    Well, I always thought Pyle didn’t start to go nuts until the rest of his bunk mates slung pelted him with bars of soap, which I would interpret has hazing.

  • wangkon936

    Interesting…. the Chinese don’t use 兵 to signify sergeant at all. It’s just used to denote purely privates:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ranks_of_the_People%27s_Liberation_Army

    士 is used to denote sergeants, all the way from Corporal
    (Junior Sergeant) to Sergeant Major.

    I think that further supports the fact that 兵 as just common solider/grunt.

  • wangkon936

    Let’s look at the Taiwanese army.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic_of_China_Army_rank_insignia

    Oh, same thing as the PLA brethren. 兵 signifies grunt private and 士 exclusively means sergeant.

    Imperial Japanese army?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Army_ranks_of_the_Japanese_Empire_during_World_War_II

    兵 also signifies grunt private to lance and junior corporal. However, they don’t use 士 to signify sergeant. They use 曹 instead.

    I think the upshot is that for purely nomenclature purposes, 병장 does not literally mean “sergeant” as it does in Western armed forces, but more of a senior/elder common solider.

  • http://www.bcarr.com/ Brendon Carr

    It is therefore a mistake to translate byung-jang as Sergeant at all. I believe it is more analogous to the rank of Specialist in the US Army, or Senior Airman in the US Air Force. Both of these ranks are E-4 and share the same pay grade with other ranks of the same pay grade which are non-commissioned officers: Corporal and Sergeant, respectively (I don’t know if USAF has ditched Sergeant or not, but we had them 20+ years ago).

  • pawikirogii

    i was thinking the same thing. you know, many of the posters here have never served their country so they wouldn’t know.

  • bigmamat

    I’m not sure what you mean by this statement. It sounds a lot like you think we’re at war, which is kind of what I already said.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    We are at war. There is a war being waged in the US against its populace. These are facts that need to change before disarming the people can be considered

  • bigmamat

    A lot of it is our culture of machismo. You know the rugged American individualist story. Then there are the neck bearded, mouth breathing, half wits that think they need protection from the “terrists”, the “gubment” and the coming race war. I’d say it’s a “guy thang” but that wouldn’t be entirely correct because a lot of American women are almost as aggressive as the men. I know a lot of men that are responsible gun owners. They’re the guys who like to kill things and then eat it. They bring in their venison sausage and jerky to work and show off their road kill cooking skills. One guy I know goes out west at least every other year and pays the huge fees to hunt elk and bigger stuff. I live in “camo land” where for 6 months out of the year you see people dressed in Mossy Oak. Many of them have an arsenal in their homes everything from compound bows and high powered rifles to hand guns. My house wouldn’t survive ten minutes in the zombie apocalypse. Other than a chef’s knife the most dangerous weapons we have is a fishing rod and piece of broken privacy fence.

  • bigmamat

    Yeah but an assault rifle doesn’t do you any good when the enemy is a hedge fund manager in a three piece suit.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    Brendon Carr: “It is therefore a mistake to translate byung-jang as Sergeant at all.”

    I agree. In the US Army, “sergeant” (E5) is most certainly a non-commissioned officer rank.

    Looking at John Lee’s guide (thank you) above, I see that private first class in Korea corresponds more to a private (E2) or one chevron (“mosquito wing”) in the US Army. PFC in the US Army is an E3 and has one chevron and a rocker beneath it so it looks more like a flattened spherical wedge.

    All this I’m guessing that Korea’s army ranks do not have a private (E1) “pv -nothing” that has no insignia in the US Army.

    BTW, I don’t think “senior corporal” is an apt translation either. In the US Army, corporal (E4, two chevrons) is considered a “junior NCO” rank. Perhaps specialist (E4), which is non-NCO, might be more analogous.

  • bigmamat

    I don’t think this is totally off topic. Are Koreans getting enough sleep? Everything I read about Korean culture makes me think a lot of people are walking around in a zombie like sleep deprived state. Kids study late into the night when my kids were already in bed. Workers push themselves late into the night. Other than just stress could a culture that requires people to survive on small amounts of sleep be contributing to the suicide rate and other types of health and mental problems like depression.

    http://www.alternet.org/personal-health/how-you-can-damage-your-brain-if-you-keep-putting-sleep?page=0%2C1

  • RElgin

    They are not. There was a thread on this some years ago here.

  • 8675309

    Carr is correct. 병장 is an E-4 rank equivalent to a U.S. Army specialist or corporal. Also, it is next to impossible to make E-5 sergeant in two years or less in the U.S. military, so everyone knows that Korean enlisted ranks are inflated and do not correspond to U.S. Enlisted ranks, which is why people just use the alphanumeric rank identifier:

    이등병 – Private

    일병 – Private First Class

    상병 – Corporal

    병장 – “sergeant”

    The NCO ranks are as follows:

    하사 – Staff Sergeant

    중사 – Sergeant First Class

    상사 – Master Sergeant

    원사 – Sergeant Major

    준위 – Warrant Officer

  • 8675309

    Everyone knows that the worst punishment you can receive in the military — or anywhere for that matter — is being ostracized by your fellow soldiers or teammates. Whether one is “incompetent” or not is irrelevant as Napoleon once said, “There are no bad soldiers, only bad officers,” the point being that effectively ostracizing a soldier by branding him a misfit is actually a failure in leadership, ill advised, and extremely dangerous, as it does nothing to build unit cohesiveness and tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy in the making. Also, labeling a soldier as “unstable” due to test results, and basically isolating him from the rest of his unit is really a bad idea, and I can’t believe that anyone would think this kind of personnel management would yield positive results, as it is quite apparent that it is exactly this kind of branding and ostracism that set him off. In the future, I’d like to see frontline units turned into more elite, all-volunteer infantry units with a high degree of espirit de corps, unit cohesion and physical fitness, where less qualified personnel can volunteer for support assignments or do something that gives them some pride and satisfaction without endangering themselves or those around them.

  • 8675309

    The ROK military has two tracks for for enlisted soldiers: One is the 24-month service track for conscripts, which results in essentially automatic promotions from E-1 to the E-4 rank of 병장 after 18 months. (There is no promotion potential for a 병장 — Koreans translate it as “sergeant” but in reality a two-year and under E-4 rank is a specialist or corporal, which makes it the terminal rank for all conscripts.)

    The second track is the enlisted career track exclusively for NCO candidates, who are usually at least high school grads who’ve decided to make a 20-year career as an NCO although they can resign at anytime after they fulfill their initial two-year requirement.

    ROK NCOs, unlike the U.S. military, do NOT come up through the ranks, meaning they start their military career as E-5 “staff sergeants” (equivalent to a U.S. E-5 sergeant or petty officer 2nd class), and are selected and trained separately and differently from conscripts, as they receive their basic and Non-Commissioned Officer Training in one six-month long course at the ROK Army NCO Academy in Jeolla Province. (Conscripts receive their 5-weeks of basic training at Neongsan near Gyeryeong in Daejon.)

  • redwhitedude

    Don’t forget after work drinking binges. Does wonders to lifespan.

  • bigmamat

    A lot of people need a chemical stress reliever to get past life’s everyday hurdles. Alcohol is just one of them. There are so many people in the US that are chemically dependent. Most people don’t have any right to criticize someone else’s behavior in this regard. Granted the pharmaceutical companies and our obsessiveness over everything related to our health are to blame for a lot of it. Most of the women I know are on some kind of anti depressant or anxiety medication. They’ve been selling us sick for so long people don’t know how to get by without smoking, drinking or popping some kind of pill. We’re like a bunch of big babies that haven’t learned how to comfort ourselves.

  • wangkon936

    Yes, Senior Corporal would be a good translation. The Chinese (both the mainlanders and the Taiwanese) themselves would probably see it as such also.

    When in doubt, look at the hanja.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    In the US Army, Corporal is still an NCO rank. I would guess based on that all conscripts make 병장 in time, that PFC would be more analogous.

    Although I have no real feel for the workings in the Korean Army, “senior corporal” (even though there is no such position) sounds much too high and even corporal sounds too high. Corporals are in the chain of command and have supervisory responsibilities over other soldiers. If someone suggested Specialist (E4), I might go for that, but most PV1’s that go into the US Army don’t make Specialist before two years.

    I understand that Koreans (and others) might translate 병장 as sergeant, but just based on time in grade requirements and typical time to grade, 병장 seems more like PFC.

  • redwhitedude

    Talking about chemical dependency how about caffeine? I swear this is the most obvious chemical dependency. However the alcohol dependency is inexcusable or rather doesn’t make any difference because it will mess up anybody’s liver.

  • redwhitedude

    It is if your target is anti government militia.

  • redwhitedude

    McDojang.

  • bigmamat

    I don’t have a target…I don’t own a gun remember.

  • 8675309

    GOP = “General Outpost.” In the ROK Army, these are defensive positions forward of friendly lines on the southern side of the DMZ. They are typically two-man fighting positions/foxholes, bunkers and trenchlines manned by a platoon whose job it is to monitor a particular sector by walking the wire and manning dug-in concealed positions 24/7 on a rotating watch schedule. GOPs are usually permanent positions that have been improved with cinder blocks and concrete with sector stakes with designated fields of fire and field telephones to alert higher headquarters.These are not the guard towers you see, which are called “GPs” (Guard Posts) nor are they the above-ground cinder-block guard shacks sitting on higher terrain features, which are called “OPs” (Observation Post). GOPs are the first line of defense and the first tripwire for any invading force who decides to punch through the southern side of the DMZ. Backing up each GOP (and there are hundreds of them up and down the DMZ, are larger units, who in turn are backed up b their parent unit, and so on an so forth. Ideally, the GPs, which are inside the DMZ, with their greater visual range and elevated position in an observation tower, has the ability to sound an alert

  • redwhitedude

    Who says you are actually targeting.

  • 8675309

    No — those are totally different things. GOP is General Outpost, and these are defensive fighting positions manned by a platoon. A platoon on line, will have approximately 20 two-man fighting positions (or foxholes) in its complement. This complement and its sector is called a “GOP” or General Outpost.” These GOPs, which number in the hundreds up and down the DMZ are the first line of defense and tripwire if an opposing force decides to cross the MDL. GPs (Guard Posts) are guard towers spaced intermittently between GOPs and are inside the DMZ, but south of the MDL. Their greater visual range allows them to see farther into the DMZ and their job is to alert the GOPs in their sector of an infiltration. The OPs (Observation Posts) are farther to the rear of the GOPs and usually are sitting on top of a hill or the highest elevation. They are above-ground cinder block guard shacks fitted out with all types of surveillance and communications gear.

  • Guest

    GOP?

  • 8675309

    Many 병장 think they are squad leaders, but in fact, they are not, and only believe so b/c of their larger ignorance of how other ranks work. Exactly like Wangkon stated, 병장 are NOT NCOs by any stretch of the imagination and are in fact more like functionaries, or experienced privates. That said, the first line of leadership in the ROK Army are not 병 장, but rather 하사, who are E-5 equivalent sergeants and Team Leaders (responsible for one infantry fire team, i.e., 3 junior soldiers. Above the 하사, is the 중사, his direct report or “squad leader.” The 중사 (E-6 sergeant first class) is one of four squad leaders (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th squads) per platoon. They each have two Team Leaders (하사) reporting to them. The four squad leaders, in turn, report to the Platoon Sergeant, or E-7 상사 (master sergeant), who in turn reports to the Platoon Leader who is a second lieutenant or 2LT (O-1).

  • 8675309

    General Outpost. In the ROK Army, a GOP is a system of defensive bunkers, trenches and concealed two-man fighting positions manned by a platoon forward of friendly lines along a sector of the DMZ that they are responsible for monitoring and defending. Each platoon mans up to a complement of 20 fighting positions, each of which are laid out to provide maximum cover & concealment, interlocking fire, protective & suppressive fire, and designated fields of fire vis-a-vis sector stakes. All these positions in total and the sector it defends is called a “General Outpost” or GOP. There are hundreds of GOPs up and down the DMZ manned 24/7 on a rotating basis year round. GOPs are not to be confused with GPs (Guard Posts) or OPs (Observation Posts), which in ROK Army nomenclature, serve a different purpose, especially on the DMZ.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Even they have physical offices.

  • Tapp

    You say that, but Koreans have a longer life expectancy than most other countries. They’re among the highest on the planet. With their smoking and drinking rates, I would’ve thought that this number would have been much lower.

  • Tapp

    Caffeine, by itself, is not that bad for you. A cup of black coffee is actually very beneficial. The problem is all of the sugar-filled caffeinated beverages like soda and energy drinks. Try not to confuse the two and blame caffeine.

  • Tapp

    The hazing was definitely the breaking point of Private Pyle.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    So you are going to sit there and deny the fact, daily documented fact, that the government, not as you so dismissively put it, the gubment, is arming itself to the teeth? No, its not just the police who are getting military equipment that has seen service in Baghdad and Fallujah; not just the military or the CIA; but agencies like FEMA, like the Department of EDUCATION, like the POST, freaking, OFFICE; or other agencies such as the Social Security Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that OBVIOUSLY have a need for massive stockpiles of ammunition. The old paranoid “the government is out to get me” line no longer seems so, in the light of the above, in the light of the WH’s position on executing citizens without due process, in the light of legal rendition and indefinite detention of citizens under the NDAA, in light of the security apparatus designed for snooping on everyone (be that by the NSA or local police departments listening in on cell phone conversations).

    I come from Eastern Europe. I grew up under communism. No one had weapons then. Had we had them you can be sure that many of the things done by the government in violently putting down dissent would have been met not by fists and sticks but by gunfire. There will soon come a time (as the Bundy ranch case shows) that people will need to face whichever alphabet soup agency is violently coming for them with force that is respected.

  • bigmamat

    Didn’t you just ask me if my target was anti government militia? I was just being sarcastic….I don’t own a gun….

  • bigmamat

    Who said I denied anything….calm down dude. You’re putting words in my mouth. I think our ENTIRE culture has gotten to violent. Who the fuck do you think let it get this way? Do you think the government got so secretive and aggressive and scary without our help? There were too many people calling for preemptive war including our corporate owned media. More than half the nation was just fine with torture and rendition and they still don’t give a rat’s ass how many people we kill with drones. But they wanted the goddamned war and they wanted the Patriot Act and all the white mofos want us tough on crime and drugs and immigrants and black people. I know all this shit that’s why I come here so I don’t fucking have to talk about it.

  • redwhitedude

    True. But it has to be as bad as Russia in order to have a serious demographic effect. I don’t think Korea is at that level.

  • redwhitedude

    I was referring to the caffeine addiction and how people can’t do without. Regardless of whether it has negative health effect or not being dependent on a chemical is not good unless you are talking about water vitamins and so forth.

  • redwhitedude

    No I wasn’t asking nor saying that you are. I was referring that assault rifles are useful if target them.

  • Tapp

    Somebody’s gotta stand up for espresso and it’s undeserved discrimination, but thanks for the clarification 😉

  • redwhitedude

    I’m not much of a coffee drinker but it’s like everyday the same people walking around with coffee from Dunkin Donuts and starbucks.

  • 8675309

    There’s no evidence of hazing and they don’t haze short timers or 병장들 as a matter of course. His problem was that his peers and his command were ostracizing him and giving him the cold shoulder b/c he was labeled as a psychological case/ misfit. In group-oriented Korean communal living situations like the military, being ignored and ostracized is worse than bullying and can be the kiss of death if not dealt with properly.

  • Tapp

    Technically speaking, ostracizing someone from a group when that person is forced to interact with that group is considered a form of hazing. Social invisibility is a huge psychological attack.

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  • silver surfer

    Perhaps the rank would be better translated as ‘corporal’ (‘senior corporal’?) since a sergeant is an NCO whereas this Korean rank doesn’t seem to belong in that class.

  • silver surfer

    Violent crime amongst the U.S. population at large has been consistently trending downward over the past 3 decades at least. The U.S. government, meanwhile, has come out more and more in the open in its disregard for the law and for human rights.

  • bigmamat

    Since you’re an American then I suppose you’ve heard of the saying “preaching to the choir”.

  • silver surfer

    So when you said “our entire culture has gotten too violent”, you knew violent crime was going down? I’m not an American btw, nor do you have to be an American to understand common idioms.

  • bigmamat

    Yeah I knew it was down. Although I think the rhetoric has gone up. I’m also wondering what gets included in those statistics. I haven’t looked. Things like domestic violence, road rage, mass shootings I don’t know if they are included. I know they say it’s gone down considerably since the 80s.