Safety concerns are rising as the Ministry of National Defense seeks to allow citizens including high-school students to experience live-fire drills at a training facility for reserve forces in Seoul in October.
The ministry plans to commission a private organization to run the shooting facility in Seocho-gu, and allow all citizens aged 16 or older to use it to enhance security awareness, officials said.
But critics say that in a country that does not allow ownership of firearms, such a facility run by a private group could lead to fatal accidents. They claimed that guns could fall into the wrong hands or be mishandled by young citizens.
Those visiting the facility will be charged 20,000 won ($18.8)-24,000 won for the shooting experience. Participants will use M16A1 rifles and bulletproof helmets lent by the military, and fire 10 to 20 rounds 25 meters away from targets.
The ministry plans to choose the private organization as early as this month and open the shooting range in October. It will run the shooting gallery until the end of next year on a trial basis. It will expand such facilities to six other metropolises after 2013, should its operation serve its purpose of strengthening public awareness of national security, officials said.
Ministry officials said that they would outline clearly who would take responsibility for possible accidents and other security measures. The ministry also hinted that it may rethink allowing high school students to use the facility.
“We judged that high school students would have a proper understanding of security. This shooting experience, we believe, would help address their unfounded concerns over military conscription,” the ministry said in a press release.
“If we set the cutoff age at 19, then we will end up placing excessive restrictions as most of them allowed to use the facility would be at the age of military conscription. We will review whether to readjust the age before we implement it in October.”