Show about abuse in army sparks calls for change

Thorny issue: A still from the popular Netflix series ‘D.P.’ which looks at the country’s mandatory conscription system, as well as the physical and mental abuse in the military. — The Korea Herald/ANN

Seoul: A hit Netflix series exploring the culture of abuse among South Korea’s enlisted soldiers is fuelling calls for the military to get tougher on rights violations, just as a military task force in charge of reform is set to wrap up its work.

“D.P.,” short for Deserter Pursuit, aired Aug 27 and is one of the top shows in Korea. It looks at the country’s mandatory conscription system, and physical and mental abuse in the military take centre stage.

Most of this abuse takes place within the military police units that hunt down deserters, who often run because of abuse in their barracks.

“I am not looking for someone to blame here. The series is me repenting for having stood there and done nothing to stop the abuse from running its course,” Kim Bo-tong, the writer of the webcomic that inspired the series, said of his own military past as part of a deserter pursuit team.

The military, which is facing unprecedented reform efforts led by an outside panel, has openly called the series misleading because of certain “dramatic scenes”.

Public confidence in the military is at its lowest.

The civilian-led advisory panel was put together in June to boost civilian oversight of the military, but many scandals have since come to light.

These involve allegations of abuse, including sexual assault, and subsequent cover-ups.

“The military is no longer capable of self-discipline, period. We need to put the military in a better check, do something more than what has already been done,” said Kim Hyung-nam, director of the Center for Military Human Rights Korea.

The civilian panel is set to complete its work this month, but the military has yet to embrace one last piece of reform that many say is needed to stop rights violations.

“An outside human rights commissioner. That’s what we have needed for the past seven years to accelerate change,” said Oh Byung-doo, chair of the Center for Judicial Watch.

“Someone on the outside is the right person to put an end to it,” Oh said, adding that the person would have to have the power to question everyone involved in abuse allegations as they take place. — The Korea Herald/ANN

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