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Lack of sleep cited as most uncomfortable aspect of military service: poll

All Headlines 18:02 April 19, 2016

SEOUL, April 19 (Yonhap) -- For many conscripted soldiers in the country, the lack of sleep is the most inconvenient aspect of their military service, a local poll showed Tuesday.

The enlisted soldiers also cited loneliness and poor living conditions as other inconveniences of their mandatory military service that lasts nearly two years.

All able-bodied South Korean men must undergo military service, which is one of the four constitutional duties in Korea, along with taxes, education and labor.

In a survey conducted by the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses (KIDA), the enlisted soldiers replied that the military should make further efforts to uphold human rights and prevent various forms of abuse.

KIDA carried out the survey on 1,900 enlisted soldiers across the country in the second half of last year.

The latest findings showed 15.6 percent saying that a lack of sleep was the most difficult part of military life. This was down from the 21.4 percent in 2013, but a gain from the 14.8 percent tallied in 2014.

Physical fatigue and mental stress are the main things affecting soldiers' sleep. An official from the KIDA explained that many soldiers could not afford to have sufficient sleep as they felt physical fatigue from training carried out during the day. Soldiers also said that the need to be on sentry duty at night also posed challenges.

Soldiers who are assigned to the front near the heavily fortified border with North Korea must often spend sleepless nights observing North Korea from a cramped sentry box.

As for other uncomfortable things, 10.9 percent of conscripts cited loneliness and psychological withdrawal, which is usually caused by troops being cut off from society during the military service period.

The defense ministry has recently recommended each military unit to widely utilize social networking services (SNS) for soldiers' convenience so that they can stay connected to the Internet more freely to prevent further isolation from society.

Poor living conditions such as a lack of hot water and insufficient heating systems were also cited as other inconveniences, together with the generally low quality of beds, blankets and pillows.

Asked about human rights conditions, the soldiers replied that the military's ongoing efforts to better listen to and respect troops are helping boost morale and discipline.

On a survey of human rights infringements, verbal abuse topped the list, outpacing physical abuse and abusive treatment from other soldiers.

A KIDA official said the government's policy measures are necessary to bring down human rights violations among soldiers that can affect the fighting capability of the country's military.

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