Trouble at the top

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Trouble at the top

The top brass must lead by example as they are the backbone of the military. But our military disgraces itself from the top. A commander of a division at the front sexually abused a female noncommissioned officer, and a high-ranking officer with a record of a sexual attack served as chief justice of a military tribunal.

The commander of the 17th Division of the Army was arrested on charges of sexual assault last weekend, one month after Commander of the First Army Shin Hyun-don was sacked for indecent behavior while being drunk. Moreover, the military is supposed to be undergoing massive reform after the mass bullying and beating of Private Yoon, which proved fatal, and a deadly shooting spree by Sergeant Lim. We are dumbfounded by our generals’ critical lack of discipline. People even ridicule the military by saying it’s somewhat fortunate that President Park Geun-hye didn’t order the military to be dismantled as she did with the Coast Guard after the Sewol sinking.

The alleged sexual molestation by the two-star general makes us doubt his mental condition. He repeatedly sexually harassed a female noncommissioned officer at his office even as he knew she had been transferred to the headquarters of his division following sexual abuse by her previous superior. Moreover, the commander appointed a lieutenant colonel, who led a female officer to commit suicide after sexual attacks, as chief justice of the military court of the 17th division. The colonel dealt with 10 cases, three of which were related to sexual crimes. He was suspended from active duty for three months for sexually molesting another female officer.

The government must find ways to prevent sexual violence in the barracks and change the current judicial system of our military. Had the victim in the latest case not appealed to Army Headquarters, her plight could have been buried forever. The Ministry of National Defense and the headquarters of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines must be able to receive reports from victims of sexual violence.

The authorities also must consider submission of general criminal cases other than mutiny and desertion to civilian prosecution, while establishing stricter standards for chief justices of military tribunals and restricting division commanders’ authority to lighten punishments. Only 15.2 percent of sexual offenders in the military received actual punishment while 34.9 percent did so in the civilian sector.

Our military has already lost public trust. It is time to devise special measures to put an end to the shame.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 13, Page 30

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