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Soldier injured in military vehicle battery explosion treated at his own expense… The military and the manufacturer said, “There is no fault.”

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A 20-year-old soldier suffered facial injuries in a military vehicle battery explosion, but the victim is receiving treatment at his own expense. Although the military authorities say they can settle the cost of treatment after the fact, the victim’s side is protesting because their position is that it may be difficult to provide support for scar treatment, etc.

According to the Army and the battery manufacturer on the 11th, on the afternoon of November 30 last year, an accident occurred in which a military vehicle battery exploded within an army unit in Gimpo, Gyeonggi-do.

Corporal A (20), who was a private first class two months into his unit at the time, suffered an accident while working to transport and unload a spent battery from a 2.5-ton military vehicle into a warehouse. In this accident, fragments flew into Corporal A’s face, injuring several areas including his cornea, lips, and cheek.

Immediately after the accident, Corporal A was transported to the emergency room of a private hospital and received treatment to remove foreign substances that had entered the cornea. She also had to undergo suture surgery for torn lips and cheeks, and is still receiving plastic surgery to erase the scars.

However, both the military authorities and the battery manufacturer claim there is no fault. The manufacturer collected the battery and conducted a self-inspection, determining that compensation would be difficult because no defects in the battery itself were confirmed.

The manufacturer said, “A steel container, which easily generates static electricity and is poorly ventilated, was used as a storage warehouse for used batteries. They claim that the military’s safety management was inadequate, saying, “During the movement, the battery was shocked and an explosion occurred along with static electricity.”

On the other hand, the military reportedly determined that there was no mistake on the part of Corporal A or the unit. Contrary to the manufacturer’s analysis, it is believed that safety management was properly implemented.

Last month, the Army Headquarters held a Major Injury Review Committee and decided that Corporal A suffered a ‘accidental injury’ (injured during military service) and supported the medical expenses incurred in the early stages of the accident. However, the position is that if treatment for scar removal after injury treatment is determined to be non-covered, it may be difficult to provide support due to regulations.

Corporal A is currently receiving treatment for his scars whenever he goes out during his service at his own expense, and he has already spent 1 million won of his own money on treatment expenses. It is said that it is expected to cost more than 7 million won in the future. Corporal A’s side is complaining of injustice, saying that everyone is avoiding responsibility even though her face could be scarred for life.

Corporal A’s father said, “We will have to spend our own money in the future, and it is unclear whether the scar will be completely removed. “I feel resentful and angry that the military forces me to do dangerous work without any safety equipment and then pretends not to notice,” he said. It was reported that Corporal A was not provided with protective equipment such as safety glasses at the time.

Accordingly, the Army said, “If Corporal A claims medical expenses in the future, we will provide support in accordance with relevant laws and regulations,” and “We plan to issue guidelines for safe handling and storage of used batteries to prevent similar accidents.”

Corporal A’s side is directly dealing with the private battery manufacturer and asking about support for treatment costs, even though the accident occurred while he was serving in the military. Afterwards, the manufacturer announced that it was willing to support medical expenses as a consolation measure, regardless of the state compensation lawsuit that Corporal A may file.

Song Chi-hoon, Donga.com reporter sch53@donga.com

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