Lee Jae-myung of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea said in a meeting with women reservists on Thursday that the country’s military should be able to allow the civilian sector to actively engage in monitoring rights issues. humans within the “closed-minded” army. .
“Many have expressed the opinion that an ombudsman policy should be adopted for the civilian sector in order to monitor the human rights situation within the army without limits, and I fully agree with this,” Lee said.
“This is a problem that occurs because of the isolation of the military, which can be resolved by being more open.”
Reserve Service members present at the meeting called on Lee to make reforms to military court procedures that often see sexual assault cases hidden or loosely handled. Such actions which went on for years forced many women in the military to resort to deadly actions, they said.
The military has set up a number of specialist committees and internal agencies to deal primarily with sexual assault cases, they said, but many of these attempts have been unsuccessful due to the nature of the branch. of service trying to hide their misdeeds from being exposed to the public.
“Policies are in place, but they stop working from time to time to allow perpetrators to walk freely without being detained, and victims are often ostracized to the point of even killing themselves,” said a reservist. during a meeting.
The names of participating reserve members have not been released.
South Korea’s military faces growing calls for reform after a string of sexual violence cases came to light, the latest of which saw an Air Force master sergeant kill himself in May after being sexually assaulted by another Staff Sergeant who was his superior.
The Air Force reportedly tried to silence the victim and her husband, who was also serving in the military. The branch is also said to have appointed her as an underqualified lawyer.
An advisory committee that was launched in the aftermath of the sexual assault case recommended that the military expand external oversight by including a civilian member on the disciplinary board as well as appointing a civil rights commissioner.
Lee told the meeting that victims of sexual assault should be reassured to believe that an investigation and protective measures are fully launched on their cases, adding that the punishment should be severe enough that the perpetrators “believe that their life can be completely changed “.
The country’s military has been accused of being traditionally gentle on aggressors and has avoided accepting changes involving an increased role for the civilian sector as arbiter. Lee said separating military women from their male counterparts was not the solution to ending sexual violence.
Yoon Seok-youl, Lee’s main rival for the presidential race representing the main opposition, the People Power Party, also called for reforms within the military focused on overhauling its internal justice system to include law enforcement agencies in the civilian sector.
His team said in August that the military should be legally obligated to transfer cases of sexual violence and other harassment cases to the prosecution and civilian sector courts, adding that a system must be in place for reporting on these matters are reported directly to the Minister of Defense.
A review of the Military Courts Act was passed in August to ensure that all sex crimes committed in the military are tried by civilian courts from the outset, as well as violent crimes involving homicides or crimes committed by military personnel. before joining the army. The revision will come into effect in July.
By Ko Jun-tae ([email protected])