“The core of this case is concealment (by the military). The minister (Kim) was aware of the facts beforehand,” said Rep. Park Young-sun, the chief of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy’s emergency committee, in a radio interview on Wednesday.
“It can only be seen as that (former) Defense Minister Kim concealed the facts, and I think that he needs to take responsibility.”
The call was quickly dismissed by ruling Saneuri Party chairman Rep. Kim Moo-sung, who said that Army Chief of Staff Gen. Kwon Oh-sung has taken all responsibility by offering to resign on Tuesday.
According to a Defense Ministry report submitted to NPAD Rep. Yoon Hu-duk, Kim received an investigation report specifying assault as the cause of death on April 8. At the time, Kim held the post of minister of national defense.
|Minister of National Defense Han Min-koo (left) and National Security Office chief Kim Kwan-jin (center) attend the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday. (Yonhap)|
The report also states that the private surnamed Yoon had been subjected to beatings since he was stationed at the unit, and provides details on the assault that took place the day of his death.
The private died on April 7 from injuries sustained while being beaten by senior soldiers in the Army’s 28th Infantry Division. He had fallen unconscious on the previous day. The military had initially announced that he choked to death on food, which he was eating after being beaten.
The military has been accused of attempting to hide the facts regarding the case from the outset.
On April 7, the military police unit of the 28th Infantry Division reported that Yoon had died after being assaulted but omitted the fact that he had been subjected to beatings and other acts of cruelty on a regular basis.
The decision to withhold information regarding the military’s plans for preventing similar incidents discussed at a high-level commanders’ meeting on July 16 from the media has also added to the suspicions.
In addition, Defense Minister Han Min-koo is said to have been unaware of the details of the case until July 30. On Monday, Han told the National Assembly’s National Defense Committee that he gained details about the case from news reports on July 30.
Han, however, denied that there was an attempt to keep the case under wraps or to downplay its significance, saying that he was not briefed on the case due to the ongoing trial of the suspects.
As the military draws increasingly heavy fire over recent developments including Yoon’s death and the June shooting by an Army sergeant, the Army on Wednesday launched a task force on reforming the culture in the barracks.
The task force, comprised of Army officers, government officials and civilian experts, will draw up plans for improving life in the barracks by the end of the year.
By Choi He-suk (email@example.com)