The retrospectively discovered outbreak appears to be a strain of spinal meningitis which is unique to Koreans, making it very difficult for foreign scientists to detect and impossible for foreign drugs to treat.
The discovery explains the latest death last week which involved a 21 year-old conscript, who was thought to have collapsed after several blows to the head from his commanding officer. "There's no doubt he would have survived the entirely justified disciplinary beating if it wasn't for his undiagnosed spinal meningitis" said army doctors. Just days earlier, another conscript accidentally shot himself in the head with his assault rifle when violent shaking caused by the unique Korean strain of spinal meningitis caused him to lose control of his arm and fatally discharge his weapon. The dizziness sometimes associated with spinal meningitis caused a third conscript to fall off a chair the same day while trying to fix a light fitting, causing him to become entangled in overhead wiring, accidentally hanging himself.
Earlier this month, a fourth conscript with undiagnosed Korean Spinal Meningitis collapsed and died after he was forced to go on a 20-kilometer march at night at the end of a 24-hour period of disciplinary 'exhaustion training'. The camp had previously been criticized in 2005 when a company commander ordered 192 new recruits to eat human excrement to solve the problem of blockages in two toilet drainage systems. The army will now investigate whether the sickness many of the conscripts subsequently complained of was caused by another previously undetected outbreak of spinal meningitis.
All able-bodied South Korean men, apart from the famous, wealthy and well-connected, are required to serve at least two years in the military - or police if they can afford the appropriate bribe. Despite the risks of contracting spinal meningitis, draftees are paid less than $82 a month in line with Japanese-born President Lee Myung-bak's goal of creating a fair society - "Our generation was paid very little when we underwent compulsory military service," explained a government spokesman, "so it's only fair that conscripts today are also paid less than $21 a week."
The spokesman was believed to be speaking hypothetically since the President, Prime Minister and a host of other prominent figures in Korean politics were exempted from military service on a variety of grounds, including medical conditions such as being spineless.
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