SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Officials say South Korean military prosecutors are charging four soldiers with homicide over the hazing death of a young army conscript in April.
The soldiers were previously charged with manslaughter. But prosecutors decided Tuesday on a more serious homicide charge after concluding that the soldiers likely knew the 21-year-old victim could die. Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok says that the accused face a minimum five years in prison and potentially life imprisonment or death.
Prosecutors say that the suspects regularly bullied the victim for about a month. They allegedly struck him in the chest and forced him to swallow a chunk of food that clogged his airway before he collapsed.
Bullying and hazing are serious problems in South Korea’s military. Service is mandatory for all able-bodied men.
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