Saving Private SeoThe controversy over Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae and her husband allegedly having pressured the military to extend their son’s sick leave during his service in 2017 is taking a new turn after the prosecution said it had affirmed the existence of an audio clip of the request on the main server of the Ministry of National Defense. Earlier this week, the prosecution raided the ministry and seized evidence of pressure to extend the vacation of Private First Class Seo, Choo’s son. The audio file was known to have been deleted after three years — the required period for keeping conversations between soldiers’ family and officers — passed in June. The recorded audio will likely offer a clue to who made the request to an official in the ministry and what kind of conversations took place between them.
In a strange development, the audio recording suddenly appeared despite Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo’s denial of its existence. He kept silent as to the question of why only the data about soldiers on sick leave in 2017 disappeared. Now, he must answer. The Defense Ministry also said there was no problem with the extension of Pvt. Seo’s sick leave because it met all requirements. But the ministry kept mum on deepening suspicions over Choo’s aide’s phone call to an officer in Seo’s unit shortly before the expiration of his second vacation and his parents’ alleged solicitation to extend their son’s vacation — this time shortly before the expiration of his first vacation.
Earlier, the Defense Ministry released facts only advantageous to the justice minister after skipping sensitive parts. Under such circumstances, who would trust what the Defense Ministry says?
The controversy over Choo’s son’s suspicious extension of a sick leave has turned into a methodical campaign by the government to save Pvt. Seo. The floor leader of the DP even said that soldiers these days can extend their vacation via Kakao Talk, an instant messaging service, while the defense minister excused himself by saying, “We’ve never said we don’t have related records.” On television, our servicemen saw their boss flip-flop on what he said. He dealt a critical blow to their honor and morale. Could the defense minister volunteer to defame the dignity of our military to protect the justice minister?
The prosecution has been sitting on its hand over the past eight months. If it had raided the Defense Ministry earlier, it could have obtained the audio recording before embarking on a full-fledged investigation into the case. The prosecution must find out if there was anybody involved in covering up or manipulating evidence. Otherwise, who would believe what the prosecution says after its probe?