An armed South Korean soldier holed up in a forest two days after killing five colleagues was captured yesterday following a suicide attempt as his family pleaded with him to surrender, the South Korean Ministry of Defense said.
The 22-year-old sergeant, surnamed Yim, shot himself in the upper-left-chest as his father and brother approached, a South Korean Ministry of Defense official said. He said Yim was taken to a hospital, but his life was not in danger.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of department rules, gave no further details.
Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said the soldier would later be handed over to military investigators.
Soldiers retrieved Yim’s rifle and ammunition at the site.
South Korean troops had been chasing Yim since authorities said he killed five fellow soldiers and wounded seven on Saturday night. He then fled his frontline unit with his standard-issue K2 assault rifle.
He fired on Sunday on the soldiers chasing him, injuring a platoon leader. Yesterday, officials said a South Korean soldier was wounded by suspected friendly fire.
Earlier yesterday, troops surrounding Yim in the forest tossed him a mobile phone so he could talk to his father. They also threw him bread and bottled water. His parents went to the area to try to persuade him to surrender.
It was not clear what triggered the rampage; there was no indication that North Korea was involved.
Yim was scheduled to complete his nearly two years of mandatory military service in September, according to officials.
Initial personality tests in April last year put Yim within a group of soldiers who need special attention and are unfit for frontline duty, the defense ministry said.
However, tests in November last year concluded he had improved and could serve in the frontline area, officials said.
The rampage comes as South Koreans grapple with worries over public safety in the wake of an April ferry disaster that left more than 300 people dead or missing. And some in Seoul have raised questions about the discipline and readiness of South Korea’s military, which is under near-constant threat from a North Korea that has recently staged a series of missile and artillery drills, traded fire with the South near a disputed maritime boundary and threatened South Korea’s leader.