July 31, 2021

South Korean army criticized for ‘backward culture’ towards women

The emotion aroused in South Korea by the suicide of a non-commissioned officer victim of a sexual assault pushes the government to initiate a reform of the institution, at a time when the question arises of opening to women the military service . Taking advantage, Sunday, June 6, of the Day of Remembrance in honor of the armies, President Moon Jae-in recalled that “Patriotism also involves protecting those who commit to defending the nation”. He apologized “For retrograde culture in the barracks” which led to the death, on May 22, of the soldier. Mr. Moon promised a reform, the broad outlines of which should be unveiled in August.

In the meantime, the investigation continues into the suicide of Mme Lee (only his surname has been revealed), air force chief sergeant assigned to the 20e Air Force fighter squadron based in Seosan, on the west coast of the country. The young woman was assaulted by a colleague after a dinner on March 3. The next day, her superiors did everything to dissuade her from filing a complaint. The host of the dinner even advised her to shut up by trying to make her feel guilty, telling her that people present at the party “Could be affected”.

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Mme Lee requested a transfer, but his assignment in early May at the 15e The special missions squadron, based in Seongnam, south of Seoul, has only worsened its situation. The bullying started again, until his suicide. “The tragedy stems from the increase in acts of sexual harassment, especially by those who tried to persuade the victim to find common ground with the suspect”said his lawyer, Kim Jeong-hwan. “Attacks would have multiplied when the suspects understood that the victim could not file a complaint. ” Adding to the drama of the young woman, the report submitted to the Ministry of Defense by the Air Force qualifies her death as “Simple accidental death”.

“An assault, a dismissal”

These revelations sparked strong reactions in a country sensitive to the #metoo movement. A petition launched on May 31 on the website of the presidency, calling for shedding light on this tragedy, had gathered 357,009 signatures on June 8. The perpetrator was arrested on June 2, and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Lee Seong-yong resigned on June 4. hotline to collect testimonials about harassment cases. “We fear that the affair of Mme Lee is only the tip of an iceberg “, worries the ministry.

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