No Shower: South Korean Army Enforces Weird COVID-19 Rules On New Recruits; Defense Minister Apologizes

South Korea’s Defense Minister Suh Wook apologized on Wednesday after receiving complaints about a number of army units enforcing extreme COVID-19 measures in alleged violation of basic rights.

“As the defense minister, I feel grave responsibility for causing concerns to the public, and offer words of apology,” he said as quoted by the Yonhap news agency.

The minister’s statement comes after the Korea Army Training Center in the central city of Nonsan introduced no-shower rules and other restrictions for newly enlisted soldiers.

According to the news agency, newly enlisted soldiers were only allowed to brush their teeth and wash their faces after they were confirmed to have had their first COVID-19 test negative. Soldiers were only allowed to shower upon receiving their second negative test results released in the second week after they arrived at the army’s center.

Army Chief of Staff General Nam Yeong-shin has also made a public apology. An emergency meeting took place between senior commanders.

“At the start of the meeting, Gen. Nam expressed responsibility over a series of incidents where troops’ basic rights were violated due to excessive antivirus measures, and offered words of sincere consolation to the soldiers and apologies to the people who sent their children to the military,” army officials said, as quoted by the news agency.

The quality of meals provided to serving soldiers during the pandemic was also criticized. Army officials said an investigation will look into the current COVID-19 response measures and a new system will be enforced.

A total of 777 COVID-19 cases have been reported among the South Korean military so far.