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Moon taps new Air Force chief amid sex crime probe

Lt. Gen. Park In-ho. (Ministry of National Defense)
Lt. Gen. Park In-ho. (Ministry of National Defense)
The Ministry of National Defense said Monday a three-star Air Force general overseeing strategy planning at the Joint Chiefs of Staff was tapped to head the Air Force, which has recently been rocked by sexual abuse allegations in which the victim died by suicide, prompting the previous chief to step down on June 4.

Lt. Gen. Park In-ho will assume the command on Tuesday, when President Moon will make his appointment official after a Cabinet meeting.

Park, an expert on military policy, was the first Air Force officer to lead policy planning and coordinate policy on North Korea at the ministry. Army generals had dominated those posts.

Park, who also served as chief of intelligence and operation at the Air Force headquarters, will help ensure robust readiness, according to the ministry, which added he will also bring his expertise to the military, when it is seeking to introduce changes to a culture that many say overlooks human rights.

Lee Seong-yong, the preceding Air Force chief, was relieved of duty on June 10, a week after he decided to step down to take responsibility for the mishandling of the sex crime probe.

Lee was discharged without penalties at the time, despite criticism that he had sat on the case. The Defense Ministry has said it will run a thorough and transparent investigation as to leave no doubt over the case, stressing that anyone involved in the cover-up would face legal action.

But the victim’s family, who believes the Air Force and the Defense Ministry have neglected to carry out an exhaustive investigation, said Monday that the National Assembly should take over the case because the military is used to looking the other way when its members are involved in sex crimes.

By Choi Si-young (