Five Students Drown at Military-Style Summer Camp

Five students attending a private military-style camp drowned during swimming training on July 18th. Under orders from a camp instructor, the high school students from a school affiliated with the Kongju University of Education walked into the sea at Taean Beach without life vests. Twenty-three of them were swept away by the strong current, of which only eighteen eventually returned to land alive. The other five members were found dead one by one the next day.

training of marine camp

A student explained the situation in the water. “We were holding hands with one another and made a line. At the level of shoulder-high water, we pulled our friends’ hands. But some of them were already so far away as we couldn’t reach them.”

A student explained the situation in the water. “We were holding hands with one another and made a line. At the level of shoulder-high water, we pulled our friends’ hands. But some of them were already so far away as we couldn’t reach them.”


The ROK Marine Corps announced that this camp was not officially affiliated with the military, so it has avoided responsibility in this case. After the Marines’ announcement, media started to use the term “private camp” and all criticism over the death came to focus on “the private camp and private instructors.”

Many observers have questioned the Korean perspective that students should be trained to strengthen their discipline in the same way that the military turns civilians into soldiers. In recent years, there has been a trend of parents sending students, some as young as thirteen, to military-style training.

The president of the school has submitted his resignation, however the families of the deceased have claimed that he should instead be fired without any chance to save face. On July 24th, three relevant instructors were placed under arrest at the same time as the group funeral ceremony for the fallen five students was held on the grounds of their high school.
Funeral ceremony

Article from JTBC:

“Good-Bye, Friends” Funeral Ceremonies held amid the Falling Rain

by Park Jong-seok

[Anchor] Today, the funeral ceremonies for the five students who attended a summer camp located on a Marine base were held. The students’ bodies were found days after they were swept away into the sea off Taean Beach.

Kim Hyun-gyeom, who was in the same class as the fallen students, spoke at the ceremony, “Donghwan! Wooseok! Byeonghak! Junhyeong! Taein! Goodbye! Goodbye my friends.”

Many students fell into deep sorrow after their five friends died due to the adults’ lack of safety precautions.

A thousand people, including students, the bereaved, and the Minster of Education were in attendance at the official school funeral.

Seo Mancheol, President of Kongju University, expressed his sympathy to the five students, saying “we can still feel their breath as if they were standing next to us. But now, we have to say goodbye to you at the same campus where you went to class.”

A police psychologist, a fearless soldier, a chemist, these were the dreams of the children who drowned that day. None of those dreams will ever come true. The assembled crowd wept with guilt at their inability to protect these young students.

Seo Namsu, the Minister of Education, also expressed his condolences to the students, “I am sorry! I am sorry! I am so sorry! I will make sure no more students have to die from the mistakes of adults.

Rain fell without stop on the gathered mourners.

Comments from Nate:

qort****:

They never got to play as much as they wanted, instead they were just devoted to studying in order to enter a good university and achieve their dreams…I feel so bad because they left without saying a word..If a country, a camp, and teachers had faithfully fulfilled their roles, we would never have lost our precious brothers and sons.. I pray that you will live out your dreams in the sky.

sun4****:

I hope the five students will be happy in afterlife.. You didn’t have to walk into the sea..I am so angry that I can’t contain myself.. Your parents will live every moment for the rest of their lives with the thought that they wish they could turn back time and save you from this fate…Please be happy in heaven..

teif**** :

May the dead rest in peace…

Comments from Twitter:

[email protected] :

Most marine base military-style camps around the country are poorly operated without any management office. This kind of tragedy could happen at any of these camps.

@leesongheeil :

Why do you place blame only on “private” military style camps and “unlicensed” instructors? If they were not a private camp and licensed instructors, would it be okay? None of the media are asking why our young students have to experience violent boot camp. What a loyal media to a militarized country (병영국가)!
[병영국가: a country that looks at everything from a military perspective and relies on a military bureaucracy.]

[email protected] :

What the heck is the point of a marine camp for students? As it is, they don’t have enough time to learn poetry, listen to music, or draw a picture..ㅠㅠ

@Comm_Love :

After hearing about this accident, I remembered something that happened to me a year ago. My child had a personality test at his hagwon and it said he was deficient in leadership ability. I was advised to send him to be trained at the marine military-style camp to improve his leadership. However, I rejected the advice because I didn’t understand why my child had to become a perfect man and I didn’t agree that leadership can be achieved through the camp.

@viny123447:

Today, there were funeral ceremonies for five students. ㅠㅠ I know their parents felt miserable.. I pray they will be able to get out of deep sorrow as soon as possible.. I deeply express my sympathies to the students.

@yjlovehj3651 :

The son who can’t come back, the father who lost everything.. Even though I am single and I haven’t had a baby, after seeing the picture I can feel how he was.. It might be impossible to completely describe his feeling…

A father of one of the drowned children mourns in the ocean near where his child drowned.

A father of one of the drowned children mourns in the ocean near where his child drowned.

[email protected]_bm :

I pray for the soul of the five students.. sixteen years old… I am so sorry that they died before they could achieve their dreams. .. I couldn’t imagine how afraid and scared they must have been.. How could it be that the instructors didn’t know how to swim well and didn’t have a license? The murderers should go to jail! I express my condolences to the bereaved family..

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  • harvz

    Forgot to add that the principal was getting hammered drunk during this. When he arrived to the scene, he was said to reek of alcohol.

    That’s Chungnam for you.

    • Cervello

      In Chungnam, people want to become fearless soldier.

      In other part, soldier fearlessly going to parlor.

  • commander

    The news reports of the drownings at the quasi-marine training camp appear to make slanted accusations against schools.

    The argument that the school organizing the training have severe faults for th loss of five high school studetns is right as they are lax in overseeing safety of students during the training that many witnesses said was far from fostering confidence and tenacity in students.

    But as problematic is that the training camp is operated by private unqualified instructors and their businness are arranged by local travel agencies.

    Training at the military boot camps is controlled by veteran instructors and detalied safety rules. That’s why all novice soldiers finish their trainig session unhurt.

    Subpar training instructors, responsible for the five deaths, are presumed to be less interested in cultivating cameraderie in students and confidence empowering sutdents struggle their way to their goal in life, than gaining profits.

    The etablishment of such training camps should be authorized by the goverment.

    Training people for profit could divert the original training aim, and may turn into mistreatment of training paricipants without consideration of safety.

  • lonetrey / Dan

    The parting pictures of the mourning father
    on the beach during the night is what got me.

    • commander

      The sense of loss for parents of drowned students is of indescribible proportions.

      Most of the time, a child is a hope, dream and the reason of life for paretns, who want to be a protective wall from all evils in the world to get them to lead a better life.

      It is sad to see a moment of a safety lapse cause cause tremdous pain to people.

    • Mighty曹

      It looks like a scene out of a movie. Sad.

    • OpparDoesntLoveYou

      ikr. i could only imagine being in that situation ;A;

  • commander

    Many question the validity of military style training for students and civilians that is desigend to shake off lethargy and boost confidence with strenuous trainings.

    The original intention for such trainings, especially for students, is that high school students with a over 10-hour-a-day sit on chairs for studying can be encouraged to overcome their limits by going through physical trainings.

    The intent is good but high school students, swamped with studying assigments for college admissions, have no time for workout, though physical class is designated on weekly class timetables at schools–an allotment that is barely followed and ket as a record on adminiatrative papers.

    As a result, Korean high school students have weak physical ability, which would causec a big trouble if they are forced to do strenuous physical activity suddenly.

    Trainings at substandard unlicensed training camps should have been watered down in consideration of students’ physical fraility and should be guided by seasoned training experts.

    I am not against a training trip for high school students. But it needs meticulous preparation for tailored programs under the guidance by licensed instructors.

    In this regard, it would have been better that the defense ministry, ostensibly intent on deflecting any condemnations over the five drownings in a statement after the incident, had showed willingness to share its training experiences by setting up the ministry-sponsored training camps where retired military instructors can be given opportunities to use expertise in training.

    • Brett

      I don’t buy it. The real reason parents send their kids is because all kids today are little fuckers and treat everyone older like shit. Parents finally have a chance to get someone to beat them into shape.

      They also have manner camps for girls. God knows there isn’t enough physical punishment at those camps.

      • commander

        Many young lads are very disrespectful to adults so much that it cannot be tolerated as a kind of rebellious behavior in adolescence.

        But believing that 3 to 4 day trainings at those camps will teach them what their parents have failed to teach is self delusion.

        My contention is that trainings target majority of good students to instill confidence and self discipline, not a fraction of bad students.

        In a sense, expecting schools to produce all well-behaved, hard-working good students is too optimistic.

        as rose-tinted expectations as it is are hopes for a fraction of bad students to change into good ones suddenly after being subject to daunting trainings which they will definetly rack their brains to skip.

        • Brett

          I don’t know if parents expect their kids to be better after the camp. It’s probably so, but I like to think of mom and dad getting even; “you don’t do what we want, you lose most of your summer vacation to physical pain and verbal abuse”.

          • commander

            You have a point. But the real trouble making students are often those from single parent families or broken homes, meaning that those drifting youngsters have no one to advise them to be better persons.

            Even some of them are found to have been abused by parents during childhood years and disillusioned with the world–a painful memory that will be certain to backfire against sticks like harsh trainings at camps.

      • BigBoysCry

        The reason kids are ” all little fuckers ” (no generalization, I love it) is because of parents unable to raise children correctly. So sending them to those camps is the best way to lose the little credibility and authority they had on their children. And they don’t even do their jobs as parents.

        It’s not because they are kids that their bodies are ours and that we can make ” physical punishment ” on them. And honestly I’m a little bit confused by the fact that you want MORE physical punishment in camps, especially in girls camps.
        And ” manners ” camp ? What are those shits ?

        • Brett

          I was more than joking about “physical punishment” for girls. But my point was, the camps don’t work… Not how the parents want them to, anyways. It was a satire to illustrate that parents of boys send their kids to get abused while parents of girls send them away to be reformed as they wish the girls would undergo some sort of physically strenuous training sessions. Reformation happens in neither case, unless the kids are worried they will get sent back over the longer winter vacation.

          Manners camp is where girls get sent to learn how to talk in the proper way to adults and wear clothes other than sweatpants with sneakers. It’s all a bunch of bullshit, just like the military style camps.

          But parents send their kids there, with many repeat customers. Why? Because the parents can justify a 3 week vacation away from their tyrant of a child.

          • BigBoysCry

            Sorry, I misunderstood your previous comment. I thought you were serious (irony in English is harder to read I guess).

            OMG but sweatpants with sneakers are damn comfortable. I feel bad for the girls who get sent there to learn to be visually pleasant. Wearing heels and make up shouldn’t be forced. I hope these camps are not popular because it’s creepy.

          • Brett

            I don’t think the focus is on clothing or makeup (although it most likely is part) as much as it is on how to speak, posture, mannerisms… Etc. It’s like airline flight attendant training or the “how to be a lady” training classes in America during the 30’s-40’s.

            A friend’s daughter was sent to one because she really is a jerk. She doesn’t have any manners at all. I blame it on her mom and dad never correcting her or challenging her when she does something wrong. Now it’s too late and they revert to someone else trying to fix their shortcomings… Point and case.

        • Brett

          Of course, it would help if parents spent a little more time with their kids, instead of pushing them off to hakwons where they learn to become “little fuckers” from their “little fucker” friends… Friends who also get pushed away by their parents. Again, it’s all a bunch of b.s.

          • BigBoysCry

            Now that hI think of it, this kind of peer pressure is not only in Korea. But I guess it’s part of the youth : following the mass to then realize it’s not really good to be a follower. Except that Korea has strange ways to react to that…with camps.

          • Brett

            No camp, lucky for you… Unlucky for your parents.

          • BigBoysCry

            I actually think that camp could be great, but without the gender special shit (seriously, I still can’t get over the “manners” camp for girls) and with GOOD supervision and some psychatrist to know where the fuckery comes from + to make sure the fuckery is gone forever.

    • Zappa Frank

      so i misunderstood,i though the military camp was due to prepare soldiers or similar, something like in Israel, be always prepare to a war with north korea. But according to what you said it’s nothing like that..and i lack to understand the purpose of this kind of camp, i mean if it’s for physical activity there’s something better and it’s anyhow useless do something for few days or few weeks.. if it’s for confidence i think it’s almost useless as well..

      • commander

        Cultural differences between Israel and South Korea requires some accounts on why some students and adults engage in military-style trainings at camps.

        As you rightly pointed out, there are many leisure sports that can instill a sense of unity and challenging spirits in people, and military trainings are designed to foster warriors to kill the enemy in life-or-death battlefields.

        The reason military-style trainings gain some traction not only for school educators but employers is that high intensity of trainings is thought to push trainees to their limits and plant a they-can-do-it spirit in them.

        Successful completion of daunting psychical challenges is known to boost self confidence.

        The training organizers at the school might hope that they would be get more confident after the training, which proved to failed miserably to measure up to expected safety levels, resulting in what they initially envisioned: five untimely deaths.

        Israel, in constant tension for continued armed conflict with its neighboring Palestinians over territorial ownership, might not need that type of training as Israelis have been already forced to have can-do-it spirits in what they see as a hostile neighboring Arab countries.

  • KCdude

    If South Korea wants to become democratic, it should stop spreading this hardcore militaristic attitude among civilians. And I don’t want my male students to become so supportive of Adolf Hitler.

    • commander

      Authoritarianism, permeated deep into society mainly by the mandatory military service for all able-bodied men, still shape the behaviors at schools, companies and governmental organs.

      The repulsive reactions to the military trainings often come out from bulled experiences that conscripts went through at army barracks or during the military trainings.

      Much have changed since the end of military dictatorships in the 1970s and 1980s, but much more need to be done to make the Korean military a true watchdog for national security not a two-year brain washing detention center for youngsters, where critics say they learned more about authoritarianism than self discipline.

      Neverthless, some advocates say that the obligatory military service taught them a lot and made them a real guy with a sense of responsibility and enduring perseverance.

      I think untimely deaths of five students are more associated with lack of safety oversight, than military authoritarianism worship.

      But as long as deadly incidents with military units continue to occur, the Korean military might have to learn with public condemnations over deaths and injuries that is conceived as assosiated with tje legacy of the past military dictatorships.

      • ehmjaybean

        The military isn’t the only place where authoritarianism is practiced. Koreans are taught their place in the world from day one. It’s the basis of confucianism. Every level of society works on a hierarchy.

  • YourSupremeCommander

    On a sad day like this the guy was still able cop a feel, damn he’s good!

    • Mighty曹

      Hahaha… damn!

  • Mighty曹

    Discipline being a huge part of the culture has taken its toll.

    • KCdude

      True but not exactly discipline. I still like your idea though. South Korean culture lacks discipline and instead it considers the idea of authority as a form of discipline, which is 100% false. South Koreans over-admire authority in the most irrational way. It looks too awful.

      • Mighty曹

        I think you put it accurately in “authority as a form of discipline”. I can imagine that on every level, from school, corporate, or even mobsters, they fear ‘authority’ while not necessarily being the most disciplined.

        • ehmjaybean

          Because every aspect of Korean life must take place in a hierarchy, so people who are in those positions in schools, corporations or the mob have a place in the hierarchy.

          • Mighty曹

            Exactly. And strictly following it can lead to tragedies.

  • terriblemovie

    Such a sad life. Study till you drop for most of your life, then go to military camp and drown. Never get the chance to go to college, have kids, a real job, buy a house and enjoy retirement.

    It makes me wonder why parents would send their kids to such camps. If you want to teach a child discipline, then become an actual parent and teach it yourself.

    • KCdude

      Koreans usually outsource their parenting responsibility to teachers and military instructors AKA strangers with authority towards the parents’ kids. It has been like this for the past 10~13 years.

    • commander

      In an to your question, many working class parents,the vast majority of whom are double-income couples, think their children fare well at schools and have a cetain degree of faith in schools.

      High school student children might talked about a traininh trip planned by the school possibly over meals during the weekend.

      Lack of conversation between children and parents struggling to make a living, and the parental vague belief that the school will ensure all safety measure during the training camping is the background of parental implicit nod of the trip.

      The past record on school trips that shows no incidents could provide relief to parents who think everything will be fine and said to their children before the campinh that the top priority is safety, so take care of yourself.

      The twist of fate spawned depthd of pain to parents whose children died, anger to the rest of parents over the school’s haphazard preparation for the trip, and a fodder for a media frenzy and for skeptics of Korean pyblic education.

  • justhetip

    Last pic comment: “The murderers should go to jail!

    Korean drama at its finest.

  • Butsu

    Military camps for kids.
    All of my what.

    • death_by_ivory

      I could pick a couple from my daughter’s class I would gladly send away.But RIP poor kids,death doesnt have an age.

  • The Enlightened One

    The instructors didn’t know how to swim well?

    Yet they hold an exercise like this… oh man…

  • Kenshin

    props to Korea for maintaining mandatory military service.

    • Sol

      You fucking little cunt ? Take that flag down. How dare you?

      • Kenshin

        i can’t respect my ancestors that died to rid east asia of western imperialism?

        • dk2020

          Japan lost that war though .. personally it doesn’t bother me .. a red dot is a pretty boring design for a flag ..

          • mr.wiener

            It does remind me of how my arse feels the morning after a night of particularly hot curry.

          • Kenshin

            with red streaks radiating from?

          • mr.wiener

            ….my arse

        • mr.wiener

          How about respecting the ancestors of the asians that died ridding Asia of Japanese imperialism?
          Also posting that avatar on site about Korea, viewed by Koreans is less about respect and more about provocation.

          • Kenshin

            is there a problem with respecting my own ancestors rather other people’s ancestors?

          • mr.wiener

            If you are respecting you own ancestors over other’s ancestors then there is a problem.
            You aren’t that silly, you must have figured this out by now.

          • Kenshin

            no

        • Kenshin, can you come talking to me on my Twitter?
          I have something to discuss with you, in our language.
          Very important.
          Japanese-Japanese business would be better not doing in here.

      • harvz

        If that flag is so bad then the US flag and the Union Jack are equally as offensive, considering the ‘scintillating’ reputation of both countries.

        Deal with it.

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