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Sex crime victim’s family calls for fresh inquiry

The family of an Air Force master sergeant who died by suicide after being sexually assaulted by a colleague holds a press conference at the Armed Forces Capital Hospital in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, Monday. (Choi Si-young/The Korea Herald)
The family of an Air Force master sergeant who died by suicide after being sexually assaulted by a colleague holds a press conference at the Armed Forces Capital Hospital in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, Monday. (Choi Si-young/The Korea Herald)
SEONGNAM, Gyeonggi Province – On Monday, the family of the Air Force master sergeant who took her life after claiming she had been sexually assaulted by a colleague called on the National Assembly to take over the sex crime investigation from the Ministry of National Defense.

The family, who believes the Air Force neglected to carry out an exhaustive investigation when she filed a complaint on March 2, the day of the incident, said they were still skeptical of a thorough probe by the Defense Ministry, which took over the case from the Air Force after she was found dead May 22.

“We just don’t feel that the ministry has been up to the task. It’s pawning everything off on the civilian committee. Is this how the ministry wants to get away with it?” the victim’s father said at his first press conference at the Armed Forces Capital Hospital in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province.

He was referring to the civilian committee the ministry set up to advise military prosecutors on what it calls a transparent investigation. The committee, which recommends to prosecutors who should face trial, does not look as aggressive as it should be when pressing criminal charges, he said.

He also accused military police of sitting on the case even after it was made public that they did little in response to the initial complaint in March against the accused Jang, who was indicted just a week ago for sexually assaulting the victim and threatening to harm her if she testified or asked others to testify against him.

An initial investigation found military police ignored incriminating evidence against Jang, but the military police officer whom the victim reached out in the first place was charged with dereliction of duty only a week ago.

The officer allegedly said he had thought Jang apologized to the victim in the text messages he sent to her following the incident, in which Jang allegedly threatened to kill her if she did not “let it go.”

“Months passed and prosecutors charged him and him only. It’s an investigation without determination,” the father said.

On Monday, prosecutors also pressed criminal charges against the chief of military police overseeing the victim’s base. The chief had been expected to face disciplinary action, but the committee’s civilian advisers demanded he go to trial.

The father doubled down on revamping the military culture, which he said was responsible for systematic cover-ups that led to her daughter’s suicide. Experts have called out the military’s culture that they said was prone to glossing over sexual abuse.

“Today marks a new milestone in military history. The joint committee sitting before me will help bring about a more robust, reliable military as we seek justice and defend human rights,” Defense Minister Suh Wook said Monday.

The civilian-led coalition of military experts held its first meeting to discuss ways to put an end to military practice that many say trivializes human rights and sexual assault complaints within the military.

By Choi Si-young (siyoungchoi@heraldcorp.com)
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