A general officer will be named the presiding judge over a trial of soldiers indicted on charges of killing a fellow serviceman earlier in the year, reflecting the importance the military places on the case, an official source said Saturday.
According to a senior insider, a general officer appointed by the commander of the 3rd Corps and two colonels from the judge advocate's office will sit as judges in the court-martial for sergeant Lee and the five others implicated in the death of corporal Yoon.
"Those appointed will be picked from officers who have no direct links to the case to ensure the trial is conducted in a fair manner," said the source, who declined to be identified. The trial is expected to be held within the month.
The move is extraordinary because most court-martials are headed by a colonel. In another change, the venue for the trial has been moved from the Army's 28th division -- the unit where the soldiers were based -- to the 3rd Corps headquarters.
Investigators said the 26-year-old Lee and other soldiers subjected Yoon to physical, mental and sexual abuse before he died of asphyxiation in April.
The tragic incident has raised public awareness toward the persistent abuses perpetrated by senior servicemen against their juniors that began with the birth of the modern South Korean Army.
In addition, the 3rd Corps is in the process of changing the indictment of those that played a central role in abusing Yoon to that of murder instead of manslaughter.
The change is being made after Army prosecutors made the recommendation.