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Sex and Violence in the South Korean Army – Investigations are Ongoing

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It often happens that, after describing a loud scandal when it only flares up, the author abandons the topic, and the audience never finds out how it ended. Avoiding this, the author tries from time to time to look at the development of the sad stories he wrote about earlier – for example, about the problem of sexual violence in the Army of the Republic of Korea.

Let’s start with the most publicized suicide of Lee Ye-ram, a female servicemember of one of the Air Force units, with which a series of scandals began. The 23-year-old Lee committed suicide in May, three months after she was allegedly harassed by a colleague of the same rank with the surname Chang. According to the victim’s family, after she reported the incident, her superiors did not take appropriate measures, but several times tried to convince her to make an arrangement with the suspect and not to report this case to the authorities. After the sexual violence, Lee took a two-month leave of absence, and then was transferred to another unit. A few days later, she registered a marriage with her fiancé, but committed suicide the next day.

Chang was arrested only after the case became known to the media. In addition to Chang, two sergeants were arrested for trying to convince the victim to drop the complaint, and also allegedly harassing Lee in 2019 and 2020. One of them, surnamed No, committed suicide in July while in custody.

Lee’s death sparked intense public fury, which led to former Air Force Chief of Staff Lee Seong-yong resigning and President Moon Jae-in publicly apologizing.

In August 2021, the National Assembly approved a revision of the military justice system, according to which military sex crimes should be tried in civilian courts, not in a military tribunal.

On October 1, 2021, the Air Force launched a new investigation unit under the direct control of the headquarters in order to better guarantee the independence of investigators. Previously, the military police in each Air Force unit had the authority to conduct an investigation, but such investigations could not be free from the influence of their unit commanders. On October 7, 2021, military prosecutors demanded a 15-year prison sentence for Sergeant Chang and charged only 15 of the 25 servicemen who were detained in connection with their alleged involvement in this case, dropping criminal charges against the remaining 10 citing lack of evidence.

Moreover, the Ministry of Defense inspection team was unable to bring charges against the military police or the........

© New Eastern Outlook

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