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[Newsmaker] Lawmakers vote to start special probe on Air Force sexual assault case

Military officials accused of downplaying the case and botching initial investigation

Park Ji-hyun, co-chair of the emergency steering committee for the Democratic Party of Korea, on Friday meets with the father of the deceased Air Force master sergeant whose case brought immense attention on starting a special counsel probe. (Joint Press Corps)
Park Ji-hyun, co-chair of the emergency steering committee for the Democratic Party of Korea, on Friday meets with the father of the deceased Air Force master sergeant whose case brought immense attention on starting a special counsel probe. (Joint Press Corps)
South Korean lawmakers passed a bill Friday to open a special inspection into a sexual assault case linked to the suicide of an Air Force master sergeant, after a monthslong investigation into the case failed to satisfy the victim’s family.

The bill, passed during a National Assembly plenary session on Friday afternoon, will allow the National Court Administration and the Korean Bar Association to recommend a total of four candidates to serve as the lead investigator for the special inspection. Lawmakers are to recommend two of the candidates for final review by the president.

President Moon Jae-in will then choose the lead investigator for the case from among these two.

The legislative proposal passed the Assembly’s Legislation and Judiciary Committee on Thursday after floor leaders of the Democratic Party of Korea and the People Power Party agreed on jointly pushing for the bill Tuesday.

The sexual abuse case sparked a major public outcry last year, after the Air Force faced accusations of attempting to downplay the incident and failing to take swift, appropriate steps to protect the victim who took her own life after months of continued pressure from higher-ups.

The special probe approved by lawmakers Friday will be centered on verifying possible criminal actions by suspects accused of botching the initial investigation into the deadly sexual assault case or bullying the victim.

The suspects include the first responders, who allegedly sat on her complaint, and the master sergeant’s superiors, who allegedly bullied her when she was transferred to another base after the assault had taken place.

By Ko Jun-tae (ko.juntae@heraldcorp.com)
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