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[Newsmaker] Soldiers given substandard clothing, berets

Soldiers enter Seoul Station on May 10. (Yonhap)
Soldiers enter Seoul Station on May 10. (Yonhap)
South Korean soldiers have been using substandard exercise clothes and berets for years, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration said amid continued reports about poorly fed troops.

According to DAPA data released by Rep. Yoon Joo-kyung of the main opposition People Power Party on Thursday, eight of the 18 companies that provide apparel for the military has supplied substandard exercise clothes and berets.

The total cost of the faulty products supplied by the eight firms over the past five years amounted to 18.2 billion won ($16.01 million), according to DAPA.

Spring and fall exercise clothes supplied by two of the firms were misshapen and discolored, and some 190,000 such items were provided to the soldiers over two years.

Some 300,000 sets of summer exercise t-shirts and shorts worth 8.7 billion won, supplied by five companies over five years, were made of defective material that didn’t absorb sweat or was easily torn.

One company supplied 300,000 berets with low water resistance, worth 1.7 billion won, over a year.

This company passed the test by submitting a sample that met the standards, but then supplied substandard products for the soldiers.

DAPA filed a complaint with the prosecution against one company, with which the supply contract had already expired, and ordered the other seven companies to rectify the product defects.

The DAPA said Thursday that it plans to rate suppliers and apply stricter quality standards to firms deemed high-risk, as part of efforts to prevent the purchase of faulty products.

“We will also consider introducing a one-strike-out system to immediately terminate contracts with suppliers of substandard products,” a DAPA official said.

Rep. Yoon released the data from DAPA on Thursday as the defense minister convened a meeting of all commanders to look into the issue of subpar meals for soldiers, among other matters.

Reports of poor meals at some military units continued even after the ministry unveiled measures two weeks ago to improve soldiers’ living conditions, including their meals.

By Kim So-hyun (sophie@heraldcorp.com)
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