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Ex-JSDF commander: Mass murders by disturbed soldier could never happen in Japan

41 Comments

At a South Korean military camp in Gangwon province, near the heavily fortified demilitarized zone bordering North Korea, a 22-year-old Army sergeant went on a rampage on June 21. Using hand grenades and an automatic rifle, he killed five of his fellow soldiers and wounded another seven.

The sergeant, identified only by his surname Lim, fled into a forested area and was taken into custody after attempting suicide.

In his weekly column in Asahi Geino (July 17), former Japan Self-Defense Force General Toshio Tamogami looks at what occurred in South Korea, and offers some explanations as to why such a tragedy could not occur in Japan's Self-Defense Forces.

According to some estimates, between 10 to 20% of conscripts who enter the South Korean military may have psychological issues. While it has been said that certain measures, such as the boosting of the number of physicians who can screen such soldiers, if such individuals can pass the general army physical examination for induction their problems might not be immediately evident.

In March 2013, sergeant Lim had been classified in category A, for soldiers showing the risk of possibly committing suicide or causing accidents, but was later upgraded to a safer category B.

Tamogami notes that after the incident, some Korean intellectuals remarked that "As long as compulsory military service continues, the issue of these 'problem soldiers' will continue."

According to reports in the local media, the situation may have been exacerbated in recent years by the trend in Korea toward one-child families, as children who are raised without siblings may be psychologically disinclined toward group activities.

While deferments from military conscription are recognized, most South Korean males are required to undergo an physical examination from age 19, and those refusing to serve without a valid reason are liable to criminal prosecution.

Many young Koreans nevertheless look for ways to evade military service. Some are said to engorge themselves with as much as 10,000 kilocalories per day -- more than four times the normal adult daily intake -- in order to make themselves ineligible.

Its reliance on conscription notwithstanding, South Korea's military has long faced difficulty in filling its ranks, not to mention difficulties in adjusting in military life that culminated in the recent killings.

Tamogami is convinced that the strongest military is an all-volunteer force, and notes that the during periods of economic recession when civilian jobs are fewer more outstanding human resources are likely to be drawn to enlisting. In a volunteer force, both officers and enlisted men are more likely to maintain a high esprit de corps. Nations that currently rely on conscription include North and South Korea, Russia, Austria, Norway, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam, among others. China is among the those with a mixed system that combines both conscripts and volunteers.

The mass murder that occurred last month in South Korea, Tamogami asserts, would be "unthinkable" in Japan. For one thing, the JSDF maintains extremely strict control over its weapons, making it impossible for a single soldier to gain access.

To gain entry to a weapons arsenal, three keys, held by different staff, are required; then another three keys are required to remove weapons from their racks.

Of course, quicker access to weapons may be needed by the South Korean military, since a state of war still exists with the North.

While Tamogami doesn't for a moment believe Japan would benefit from a system of compulsory military service, he does feel that the knowledge education, physical education and moral education that members of the JSDF undergo are well balanced and that administering even just three days of military discipline to unruly civilian youths can transform them in a way that can do their parents proud. Particularly people aiming to go into politics, teaching or government service would do well to first spend several years in the uniformed services.

So while Japan's armed forces won't benefit from a draft, serving one's country can be a good experience. Within just three months, claims Tamogami, civilians will not only develop feelings of patriotism; they'll stop slovenly speech and shed their disheveled apparel and flaky hair styles, metamorphosing into "splendid human beings."

"The experience of serving in the military is absolutely to a person's advantage," he concludes.

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

41 Comments
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I share concerns about nationalism etc... But to be fair nothing this ex-sdf guy said that is mentioned in the JT article seems that unreasonable to me. It's quite a relief to hear there is a sensible system for controlling firearms, not 100% failsafe, but it must be one of the best in the world. I also agree a fully volunteer army is preferable for many reasons. And while I don't support conscription, he's probably right that a little discipline for young adults would benefit them, though the violation of their freedom by conscription might also do damage to them.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If one dick head among the 120 million good Japanese, anything is possible. The probability is there, never does not exist.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Well you can only hope he feels the nutter effect.

@Jimizo

No, it isn't. It could be argued that the job of retired generals is to conduct themselves with dignity. This 'general' was forced into retirement for soiling the carpet once too often. You are absolutely right.

I hear it was not that it took one other 'general' 10 years to make him understand he was soiling the carpet, but hordes of police 'proving' it not only unethical but the definition of illegal.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Okay here is another "it cannot happen in Japan." Remember when AIDS was supposed to be only a foreigners' disease?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

There have been many mass murders in Japan involving mass knifings. If these things can happen in civilian life, they can happen in the military as well. I guess that alone defies the logic that Japanese are some how more superior and that these things only happen with foreigners.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

It has been a long time since a Japanese soldier has been to war. No amount of peacetime training can prepare you for war. No one, not the trainer, nor the soldier nows what will happen until he has actually been in a fight.

When I was in the United States Marines saying was that no one was trusted until after his third battle experience. Even so people may snap under different conditions. To be in a war you must break all the social taboos against injuring, or killing another human being. There is no guarantee that you will eve be able to put those taboos back in place.

Meanwhile the war in Korea continues, never a peace treaty signed and no attempt to end the war. That creates conditions quite different from a short term war. We in the United States are learning that the hard way with a near continuous "war on terror" that has already lasted longer than World War II. We have some veterans that have done six to eight tours of duty. Some even more. The damage increases with each tour of duty.

So until modern Japanese solders have been tested in war, no one can know how they will react. No one

2 ( +2 / -0 )

According to reports in the local media, the situation may have been exacerbated in recent years by the trend in Korea toward one-child families, as children who are raised without siblings may be psychologically disinclined toward group activities.

It's not just Tamogami who has nutty ideas.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Is he saying that there is no bullying in the SDF (cough) or there is no revenge killing or suicide from the result?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The U.S. military has a quite good health corps and about 12% of soldiers suffer from major depressive episodes,

That all may be true, but once you are out and now considered a veteran the VA is getting worse all the time.

VA waiting or "death lists"

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/usanow/2014/06/23/phoenix-va-whistleblower/11297069/

-and people going into Iraq etc with 9+ tours of duty are going to have more issues the the general military person pushing paperwork.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yeah they could happen anywhere.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Tamogami still isn't any smarter than from his last public outings.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Mr Tamogami is a favorite of the black truck crowd - he embodies all their views and values. He is also quite famous for using the phrase "never happen" before, i.e., Rape of Nanking, Comfort Women, Unit 731, Bataan Death March, etc - all "never happened".......

His paper that resulted in him being fired proffered the view that the US was waging an economic war against Japan in the late 30s, and as a result, Japan was forced to respond to this "attack" with a corresponding one at Pearl Harbor - so Japan did not launch a "sneak attack" on the US, it was merely responding to one - typical far right wing revisionism.

Look up the word "ultra far-right wing nut" and you'll no doubt see a picture of the retired General.......

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Never say never.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

i do not know about the Japanese Military but in civilian life it happened such as in Akihabara and some other cases in the past. at the same time Japan is going to build up the military and Japan is already suffering from a labor shortage and the youth population is on decline. Military will needs more youths and Japan can impose laws for mandatory military service, which can create the similar such situation like in Korea.

the writer ignoring the fact that Japan is suffering from one of the high rate of suicides which can affect any aspect of life.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

According to some estimates, between 10 to 20% of conscripts who enter the South Korean military may have psychological issues.

I wonder who made those estimates, and how it was possible to make them.

An easy answer would be to say that all young males get conscripted and 10 to 20% of all young males may have psychological issues, therefore 10 to 20% of all conscripts may have psychological issues.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Tamogami is the same guy who said in all earnestness that is physically painful for Japanese people to tell lies. So you can draw your own conclusions as to the quality of advice he is capable of giving on any subject.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

kwatt: "On the other hand, Japan has no war for almost 70 years and no military service."

And so you're in favor of nutters like the ousted Tamogami, who clearly wants war, changing article 9 so he can get what he wishes? This guy is a nutter who should have shut up a long, long time ago, but sadly some people still support him and uphold his wishes for war 'for peace'.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

With all the safeguards the ex-general says is in place to prevent this in Japan, when it does happen, what will his excuse be? I'm guessing, 'The American influence.' Although I hope it doesn't happen.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Particularly people aiming to go into politics, teaching or government service would do well to first spend several years in the uniformed services.

So they can be right-wing nuts and try to brainwash other people?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

'It is the job of the retired generals in any country to say "this will never happen in our country."

No, it isn't. It could be argued that the job of retired generals is to conduct themselves with dignity. This 'general' was forced into retirement for soiling the carpet once too often. Hardly a man the majority of Japanese people would like to speak on their behalf or be proud to call one of their own and I pity those who would.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

It is the job of the retired generals in any country to say "this will never happen in our country." Can you think of a retired US general saying "a mass murder by our soldier is likely to happen"?

-12 ( +0 / -12 )

Go on then... I can't think of a single example. Can you?

Ithink it is quite common in Japan to thik that certain social problems are identifiably foreign and could not happen here, until they do. Attacks by soldiers on their own will one day happen here too.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Another high up Japanese idiot.... never say never.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Gotta love the arrogance. Can't count how many times I have heard comments sch as "No Japanese person woudl do X" or "X wouldn't happen here" when X has happened and probably will happen in the future. A stupid comment from a stupid man.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Yes, he does come across as bragging.

Still, as someone so pithily put it, pride comes before a fall.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The NK troops would be in Seoul by the time they located the six damn keys he brags about.

That made me laugt out loud, actually. Thanks for that. Indeed, indeed.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Talk about comparing apples and oranges. Comparing a soldier in SK, where they are still technically at war with NK, and only a thin sliver of land keeps hundreds of thousands of NK soldiers from over-running the south, with a soldier in Japan is simply ludicrous. And the kook running NK periodically decides to shoot off some rockets to keep tensions high. Just look at what he says about the weapons disbursement procedures. The NK troops would be in Seoul by the time they located the six damn keys he brags about.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

I have to admit Japan is safe. Chicago had like 60 shootings over a weekend.

However, this state of affairs may not last forever. If there is for example some terrorist attack in Japan on the order of 9/11 all gaijin will suddenly become persona non grata,,,

Moderator: Please refrain from posting rubbish like this.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

FarmboyJul. 10, 2014 - 07:33AM JST

According to some estimates, between 10 to 20% of conscripts who enter the South Korean military may have psychological issues.

I wonder who made those estimates, and how it was possible to make them.

In the case of the South Korean army the answer is simple, "an idiot". They're being examined by a physician, not a psychiatrist or psychologist, and frankly it is amazing that a regular physician is able to detect any but the most severe cases.

The U.S. military has a quite good health corps and about 12% of soldiers suffer from major depressive episodes, 14.3% from generalized anxiety disorder, etc. etc. And even the U.S. military admit that they're not catching many of the cases because of the macho culture in the military that discourages reporting medical problems less severe than a missing limb (and even then they'll probably try and duct tape it back on before actually seeking medical help - okay, that's a slight exaggeration).

With forced conscription the South Korean army is probably much, much worse.

As for the Japanese army, with all the bullying I wouldn't be surprised if it was also much worse off. This ex-Commander's statement about the security protocols is also way off the mark. Weapons are regularly checked out for target practice and other necessary training, and weapons go missing in ANY army. Show me an army anywhere in the world that claims it hasn't lost a weapon in the five years and I'll show you a liar.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Cleo's correct. This is the same guy that wrote an award-winning essay claiming Japan's invasion of East Asia was a "good thing" for all involved. To be fair, the award was given by a right-wing group of historical revisionists, but it still landed his half-baked historical analysis front and center in the news.

Despite that, however, he is correct that it would be logistically much more difficult for a SDF soldier to access the weapons necessary for such mass murder. A redundant system requiring six different keys to access the weapons? Good luck with that.

But the argument that SDF soldiers are somehow immune to the kind of psychological issues that would predicate violence because they A) are volunteers, and B) attended boot camp? That's utter nonsense. Japanese soldiers are no more or less susceptible to the pressures that push people over the proverbial edge than anyone else. Feelings of depression, loneliness, isolation, self-loathing, anger and a whole raft of other unhealthy mental issues brought on by simply living are universal, and no amount of training (read: conditioning) is going to erase underlying problems that are left unaddressed directly and professionally.

The soldier that’s going to snap and hurt himself or others already exists in the SDF. He/she just hasn’t had the opportunity yet.

11 ( +13 / -2 )

South Korea is still at war and people have compulsory military service. It seems that some people are no doubt going crazy under circumstance. On the other hand, Japan has no war for almost 70 years and no military service.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Tamogami is a semi-literate nationalist who wrote a bizarre essay that my old history teacher wouldn't have fed to his goat. I don't know if military service will stop 'slovenly speech but it certainly didn't promote clear thinking or the ability to write in his case.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

Isn't this guy a nutter? I thought I read it somewhere. Anybody know?

Yes, he's the nutter who was fired from a high-up place in the JSDF for claiming that Japan wasn't the aggressor in WW2, that Asia benefited from Japan's wartime activities, that Japan should develop its own nuclear arsenal, and given the chance he would have nuked America in 1945.

And this person has the temerity to put himself forward as an example of the 'splendid human beings' turned out by the JSDF? Give me slovenly speech, disheveled apparel and flaky hair styles any day.

16 ( +19 / -3 )

I don't have any illusions that Japanese psychological screening procedures are better than elsewhere, but there are two things going for Japan.

1) That they do (still AFAIK) have a relatively low crime rate, which implies a certain nation-wide disinclination to such acts. 2) More importantly, it is true that Japanese soldiers find it much harder to get access to weapons. Except for training where weapons are taken out (and it is important to note that Japanese use only 10 rounds a month for infantry and 20 rounds per year for non-combat troops, which makes it hard to kill a lot of people with such slender allocations), the weapons are indeed held tightly. It is said the guards at the gates, for example, actually have empty weapons, and even the guards for the armory don't have the magazine loaded.

On another day, Tomogami will be bleating about these restrictions, but...

2 ( +3 / -1 )

The mass murder that occurred last month in South Korea, Tamogami asserts, would be “unthinkable” in Japan

The U.S. has a purely voluntary force. Usually a mass-murder anywhere is unthinkable.

Tamogami is deluding himself.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Here we go... What do you think... 2 or 3 years before an incident happens?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@borax

Go on then... I can't think of a single example.

Can you?

-9 ( +1 / -10 )

Someone should compile a list of all the things Japanese officials have said would be "impossible" or "unthinkable" in Japan, after they happened in other countries. Then we can cross them off the list one by one, as they happen, eventually, because bad things happen EVERYWHERE, sooner or later. Such hubris.

14 ( +16 / -2 )

And so it begins. There years, perhaps, until the government decides to make "splendid human beings" of all Japan's youth, in a compulsory manner.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

According to some estimates, between 10 to 20% of conscripts who enter the South Korean military may have psychological issues.

I wonder who made those estimates, and how it was possible to make them.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Isn't this guy a nutter? I thought I read it somewhere. Anybody know?

0 ( +6 / -6 )

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