South Korea's human rights watchdog recommended Thursday that military law enforcement hand down tougher punishment for sex crimes involving commanding officers and their female subordinates, amid growing concern over a rise in sexual assault cases in the barracks.
The recommendation by the National Human Rights Commission to the Ministry of National Defense came based on its research into the military prosecution's handling of recent sexual assault cases regarding superiors and lower-level officers, the watchdog said. The survey began in May following the suicide of a Navy lieutenant who was raped by her commanding officer.
Kim Seong-joon, the head of the investigation unit at the National Human Rights Commission, speaks during a press briefing on Dec. 21, 2017, on its recommendation to the defense ministry calling for tougher punishment for assailants in the sexual assault cases in the military. (Yonhap)
The NHRC has found that 80 percent of sexual assault victims between 2014 and 2016 were sergeants due to be examined by their superiors for extension of service. It alludes to the fact that they are in a vulnerable position in terms of resisting their boss even if they are sexually mistreated, the watchdog noted.
The analysis also revealed that the military prosecution has tended to be lenient on the charges they press against the offenders. Some of them were indicted under the Criminal Law, or the law related to banning sexual violence, instead of the Military Criminal Law subject to aggravated punishment.
One non-commissioned officer in his 40s was charged for sexually harassing a female subordinate in her early 20s under the general criminal law and is still on the job as he received a pecuniary penalty.
In a separate case, the military court meted out a suspended sentence for an officer who groped a young female commissioned officer on her thigh, upholding the defendant's claim that he was intoxicated and made a mistake.
The ratio of military court rulings of suspended sentences for sexual offenders came in at 10.34 percent, much higher than 1.36 percent by general district courts.
The watchdog also called for stricter disciplinary measures against a sexual assailant, including an immediate opening of the reprimand process and collaboration with outside experts for a more thorough and independent review once an allegation is raised. (Yonhap)