A female Army major was ordered to intervene to settle a sexual harassment case on behalf of a male officer by pretending to be the suspect’s sister, reports from the South Korean Army and National Human Rights Commission showed Sunday.
According to a petition filed by the major who was unnamed, she had worked as a professor at the Korea Army Academy at Yeongcheon, North Gyeongsang Province, and faced career disadvantages after defying a colonel’s request in 2015 to settle a sexual harassment case on behalf of a student. The suspect was reportedly a captain at the time.
The major defied the order, saying that she “could not follow the orders as a professor overseeing the cadets.”
She was instructed to act as the sister of the suspect, who had been arrested on accusations of setting up hidden cameras. Whether the suspect actually had a female sibling is unknown.
In response to her refusal, the colonel gave poor feedback on her performance reviews, putting her at the risk of being discharged from the military.
The human rights team under the Ministry of National Defense, however, only gave a written warning to the colonel, deeming the order as “inappropriate, yet it did not force a ... settlement through a forceful command.”
However, a group of her former and current superiors signed petitions to block her from being discharged. The judging committee ruled to maintain her position in the Army in February.
Despite the efforts of her supporters, the major has yet to recover her teaching post and was punished with a two-month temporary wage cut, according to the released document.
A military official told a local media outlet that there is no connection between the reported case and the military discipline against the major.
The South Korean military has often been accused of deep-rooted discrimination against female soldiers. The state human rights committee decided to launch an in-depth probe into sexual harassment issues involving female personnel early this month.
In 2015, the number of female soldiers tallied at 9,783, with two general-level officers.
In a seminar hosted by the Defense Ministry in September to promote gender equality, Cho Seok-hee, a soldier-turned-university professor, spoke openly about the issue.
“The military needs to discard the current guidelines with female soldiers and promote fairness in position assignments and management of military careers,” said Cho.
The major plans to file an appeal against her unjust punishment and a lawsuit against the colonel under the prosecution system within the Defense Ministry.
By Jung Min-kyung (firstname.lastname@example.org