The Korea Herald


Air Force sets up crime unit after sex abuse case

By Choi Si-young

Published : Oct. 1, 2021 - 15:13

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An Air Force commander in charge of a new crime unit speaks to officers Friday. (South Korea's Air Force) An Air Force commander in charge of a new crime unit speaks to officers Friday. (South Korea's Air Force)
The Air Force on Friday set up a unit of investigators at its headquarters following accusations that cover-ups led to the suicide of a master sergeant who claimed to have been sexually assaulted.

The unit will take away military police power to investigate crimes, as they have been accused of looking the other way when the master sergeant filed a complaint. The sergeant’s death sparked a public outcry that led the military to form an independent investigation arm.

Military police will no longer be able to look at crimes, but they will carry on policing their bases. The new unit will run a central command at the Air Force headquarters, five regional offices and a forensics department.

Meanwhile, the family of the master sergeant said the military should name a special prosecutor to investigate her death, noting the prosecutor should be a civilian. The military appointed a military prosecutor to run the investigation. But it has been neither thorough nor effective, according to the family.

“The military prosecutor reports to the chief prosecutor (at the Ministry of National Defense), who was the reason in the first place the ministry came up with a special prosecutor because he had botched the initial probe,” the family said.

According to the family, those responsible for the death should be held accountable but the ministry is avoiding to indict them, so the civilian authority should take over the case right away.

In August, the military overhauled its criminal system, handing over much of its power to investigate and rule on cases involving service members to civilian authority. However, critics said the military should have dismantled the military courts entirely. The military courts can now only hear first trials.

Despite reforms, public confidence in the military is at its lowest because many scandals have since come to light, including allegations of abuse, sexual assault and subsequent cover-ups.