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Military struggles to curb sex crimes among soldiers

Soldiers receive CBR training.
Soldiers receive CBR training.
The military is stepping up moves against sex crimes among soldiers following a series of recent sexual harassment cases involving ranking military officials.

It has set a special period from July 30-Aug. 31 to “stamp out” sex crimes in the military. It is also striving to enhance military discipline and educational programs against sex crimes, a military official said.

“Sex crimes are things that seriously damage the moral fiber of the military. We have stringently dealt with those involved in the sex crimes and have alerted (military units) against them to prevent the repeat of such cases,” the official said under condition of anonymity.

During the special period, moral education for enlisted soldiers and enhancement of military discipline and patrol activities are to take place, the official said.

“Such cases take place clandestinely, so it is difficult to quickly discover then. Those who sexually harass male or female soldiers using their higher ranks will face clear disadvantages in terms of promotion and position changes. In fact, they, if caught, cannot get promoted.”

Victims in the military have apparently been reluctant to immediately report their cases to the authorities as the cases often involve their immediate superiors.

“In such cases, we should nip it in the bud. It is true that as our 600,000-strong military is a hierarchical society, victims (in many cases) feel hesitant (to report their cases). It is a human rights issue and they should immediately raise a question regardless of their ranks,” said another ranking military official.

A military court in June sentenced an Army lieutenant colonel to two years in jail for sexually harassing some of his soldiers.

The 41-year-old officer, who is in charge of a guard post in a frontline unit, is alleged to have sexually harassed his soldiers since August in 2009. Dozens of soldiers were reportedly harassed by the officer, identified only by his surname Park.

Park was dismissed from the position in March. His case is pending at a higher military court following his appeal.

On July 16, a colonel belonging to the Second Marine Division was dismissed from his post after it was found that he allegedly sexually assaulted his duty driver.

According to the driver, who is a 22-year-old corporal, the officer, surnamed Oh, sexually assaulted him four times near and inside their unit in Gimpo, Gyeonggi Province.

The driver, surnamed Lee, submitted a petition to the National Human Rights Commission on July 13. Lee claimed that Oh kissed him, and stripped his clothes and touched his sexual organs, saying “Don’t move. It is an order.”

Feeling mortified and ashamed, Lee claimed that he attempted to commit suicide on a mountain and by cutting a wire in his military car, but failed.

By Song Sang-ho (