Army officer is demoted in case over sexual abuse

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Army officer is demoted in case over sexual abuse

A lieutenant colonel will be demoted following accusations that he sexually abused a female solider, the Korean Army said on Tuesday. The decision, a first in the Army, was made as a part of efforts to enforce more stringent punishments for sexual misconduct in the military.

The lieutenant colonel, surnamed Lee, is to be demoted to major after the military held a disciplinary committee meeting last month to respond to allegations that he sexually molested a subordinate female soldier.

According to an Army official, Lee breached military sexual conduct codes and sexually harassed and molested a female subordinate, a major in his unit, multiple times.

He allegedly sent harassing SMS messages over KakaoTalk to the female major between April and November this year. She eventually filed the sexual misconduct report with the Ministry of National Defense.

“Heavy disciplinary action was imposed in a move to employ a zero-tolerance policy in regard to sexual crimes,” the Army official said. “If he is demoted, a dishonorable discharge will be taken into consideration.”

Should Lee be dishonorably discharged, his military pension would likely be cut. Lee has appealed the case to the Defense Ministry, arguing that the demotion was too extreme a punishment. Should the victim file a civilian suit, Lee could be held accountable according to Korea’s criminal law, though in this case the military took separate measures to punish him.

While the military has theoretically enforced a zero tolerance policy in regard to sexual misconduct since the beginning of the year, this is the first time it has moved toward harsher disciplinary action.

The case comes amid a slew of incidents involving abuse in the barracks, bullying and sexual harassment in recent months, which led the Defense Ministry to pledge an overhaul of military culture. It will review Lee’s case and announce a final decision soon.

BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]


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