General who abused soldiers will face probe

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General who abused soldiers will face probe

Korean Army Gen. Park Chan-ju, who has been accused of treating soldiers assigned to him like slaves, will face a criminal investigation by military prosecutors, the Ministry of National Defense said Friday.

Earlier this week, the Center for Military Human Rights Korea revealed a string of reports that Park, a four-star general and commander of the Korean Army’s 2nd Operations Command, and his wife both violated the human rights of so-called housekeeping soldiers assigned to their residence. The Defense Ministry announced the results of its interim probe on Friday.

Under the center’s findings, Park’s wife allegedly forced soldiers assigned to their residence to do menial household chores, garden and clean up toenail clippings and dead skin debris. These soldiers were also said to have been made to wait on the couple’s son, wear electronic bracelets so they could be called at any time and were subjected to verbal abuse.

The ministry confirmed a considerable portion of the allegations against the Parks and said that the general will be booked on criminal charges. Based on the suit filed by a civilian organization to the military, the Defense Ministry said the case will be transferred to prosecutors for investigation and that Park’s wife will be summoned as a witness.

“Based on the interim probe, there were some points in the couple’s testimony that contradicted media reports,” Moon Sang-gyun, spokesman for the Defense Ministry, said in a briefing that day, “but it was revealed that a considerable portion was true.”

The ministry said they received testimonies from about 10 individuals, including six soldiers assigned to the commander’s residence, a petty officer who acted as his driver, an adjutant officer and Park’s wife. It went onto cross-check the Park couple’s testimonies against each other as well as against various media reports.

While the results were initially expected to be announced next week, the ministry announced its findings earlier because public interest has grown so much.

The ministry confirmed that soldiers were forced to wear an electronic bracelet, which would vibrate whenever Park and his wife rang a bell.

While his wife was not confirmed to have waved a knife at a soldier, as was reported, she was said to have slammed it onto a cutting board. The soldiers were also ordered to pick up golf balls and drive their son around when he was out on vacation.

The ministry said it determined some of the other allegations were also true despite contradictions with testimony by Park’s wife, which they did by comparing the testimonies of soldiers. One such allegation involved Park’s wife throwing jeon (Korean pancakes) at a soldier’s face and forcing them to do laundry for the commander’s son.

The ministry added that there will have to be investigation into further allegations, such as whether a soldier assigned to Park attempted suicide in 2015 because of the couple’s excessive demands. The Army said it will conduct a broader inspection into possible human rights violations against soldiers assigned to superiors’ residences.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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