Educate the Military on Harassment

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Educate the Military on Harassment

The report that an army major general, identified only as Kim, was sacked on allegations that he sexually harassed a female subordinate officer has sent shockwaves across the country. The case awaits a final ruling by the central disciplinary committee, but it is unlikely that Maj. Gen. Kim will be cleared of the charge since the investigation by army prosecutors has confirmed that he did sexually molest the female lieutenant in his office on the base some 10 times.

Needless to say, the country invests large funds in the training of high-ranking commanders, and Kim is a division commander in charge of front-line soldiers.

The victim, a female lieutenant, dropped the case the day after she reported the allegations to army prosecutors, saying "It''s good enough that the case has been disclosed. I don''t want him punished criminally." However, the army is determined to punish Kim as a warning to those who may engage in similar behavior in the future.

The day when the army was strictly a male preserve is now gone. In the recent past, the Military Academy refused to allow women into the school, which seemed impregnable. But rules have changed and a growing number of women want to join in the army and make it their career. Today, female soldiers total 3,000 and the number is expected to grow rapidly.

Six months have passed since South Korea enacted a law to prohibit sexual discrimination throughout all sectors of society. But we have not seen a similar change in the military. Even though the law promulgates instruction for preventing sexual harassment by civil servants, only a handful of high-ranking central government officials have attended such classes. Setting aside the quality of such education, while 93 percent of regional and central government offices provided the relevant classes at least once a year in 1999, the military seems unconcerned on this matter.

Many men, especially those of the older generation, are confused about the nature of sexual harassment and seem unaware of what is considered unacceptable behavior and its limits. So that such wrongdoings do not recur, senior military officers must be educated on how to prevent sexual harassment. At the same time, the military must work out measures for overseeing such matters. In this regard, it should refer to the Labor Ministry''s honor auditor system on equal employment opportunities.

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