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:


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.


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:

‏@yameyori :

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.]

‏@tak0518 :

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.


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.

‏@twinkle_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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