SOKOR APOLOGIZES FOR SUICIDE OF ABUSED FEMALE SOLDIER
South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook apologized Wednesday over the suicide of a sexually harassed female noncommissioned officer, vowing to conduct a thorough probe and overhaul the military's system of handling sex crimes, Oh Seok-min and Choi Soo-hyang reported for Yonhap news agency.
It is the first public apology the defense chief has issued after the late Air Force master sergeant was found dead on May 22, around three months after she was groped and suffered other abuse by a colleague of the same rank.
The case sparked public outrage and criticism, as the military, despite her appeal, failed to take proper measures to protect her and instead tried to persuade her to reach a settlement with the suspect in a suspected attempt to cover up the case.
"I am very sorry for causing deep concerns to the bereaved family and the people over the recent death of the sexual abuse victim. As defense minister, I feel heavy responsibility," Suh said during a parliamentary session.
"The ministry will thoroughly investigate every detail, including suspicions of appeasement and concealment," Suh said.
"We will also review the sex crime handling system to come up with fundamental reform measures."
President Moon Jae-in on Sunday offered a public apology over "the tragic and unjust death" by "such an evil practice in the barracks culture," and ordered the government to establish a task force on overhauling military culture.
The task force will be co-headed by the defense minister and a non-military figure, and involve not only military commanders and government officials but active-duty enlisted soldiers and legal experts as well.