After a military sexual assault and suicide, South Korean President Moon authorises the formation of a task group.

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In reaction to public outcry over the death of a female Air Team serjeant who was sexually abused by a male coworker, South Korean President Moon Jae-in established a task force on Monday to shake up the country’s military culture.

According to Moon’s spokesperson Park Kyung-mee, “An organisation that can comprehensively improve the military barracks culture beyond individual issues should be established and used as an opportunity for fundamental improvement,”

The Air Force master sergeant, publicly identified only by her surname Lee, was sexually assaulted in her car by a colleague of the same rank in early March and reported the attack to officials, according to media reports.

Her family submitted a petition to the presidential Blue House last week accusing the Air Force of attempting to cover up the assault and silence Lee, ultimately leading to her suicide. Lee was found dead in her home on May 22. The petition, which calls for the president’s office to conduct a thorough investigation, has received more than 350,000 signatures .

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“The recent military-related anger cannot be overlooked,” Moon said Monday.

He said the task force should include civilian members and urged it to “create a system to prevent such an incident from repeating itself.”

Moon also called on the National Assembly, South Korea’s parliament, to pass a proposed bill that would overhaul the military court system.

During a speech commemorating South Korea’s Memorial Day on Sunday, the president vowed to correct the military culture that led to Lee’s “tragic and unjust death.” He later met with her parents at a funeral home and apologized for the country failing to protect their daughter, according to his spokeswoman.

A suspect in the attack was detained last week, and two supervisors were dismissed of duty as part of an investigation that gained traction given the indignation over the case.

On Friday, Gen. Lee Seong-yong, the Commander of the Air Force, presented his resignation, which Moon’s office said was accepted immediately.

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The South Korean military has long been accused of turning a blind eye to abuses in its barracks, ranging from severe bullying to sexual assault. Amnesty International published a study in 2019 highlighting the prejudice and violence faced by LGBT military personnel.

In March, a South Korean transgender soldier died by suicide after being forcibly discharged from the military, sparking another round of public anger.


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