Presidential office urges through probe into death of soldier

SEOUL, Aug. 4 (Yonhap) -- The presidential office on Monday called for a through investigation into the death of a soldier who was severely assaulted and suffered from abusive treatment by his comrades, suggesting that it is premature to reprimand top military officials over the incident.

The investigation into April's incident is taking precedence over punishment of top military officials, presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook told reporters.

He said a priority is to ensure that a similar incident won't recur.

The comments came as Defense Minister Han Min-koo apologized over the death of a 23-year-old Army private first class, surnamed Yoon.

Yoon died in April after allegedly being hit in the chest by his senior enlisted soldiers at their barracks while eating some snacks. Yoon had long suffered from frequent assaults and abusive treatment by his senior soldiers, according to initial investigations.

President Park Geun-hye is expected to speak about the incident during a Cabinet meeting Tuesday.

It is the latest in a series of incidents that hit South Korea's military in recent months.

In June, an Army sergeant who had been bullied by his comrades went on a shooting rampage near the border with North Korea, killing five and wounding seven others.

Assaults and abusive treatment of junior enlisted soldiers by their seniors in barracks have long been problems for South Korea's military, which relies on a conscription system.

All able-bodied South Korean men must carry out compulsory military service for about two years in a country facing North Korea across the heavily fortified border.

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