The ministry said the investigation will focus on the cases in the last ten years involving general officers, including those committed by female officers. The ministry said it would consider establishing an independent organization to oversee sexual assaults in the military.
However, the impact of the investigation remains to be seen amid the skepticism that the probe is not designed to criminally punish the offending military officials and only limited to cases concerning generals.
|The Ministry of National Defense building in Seoul (Yonhap)|
“Our investigation is not designed for separate punishment… The outcome of the investigation is to be reflected in the military’s policy against the sexual assault,” a defense ministry official said under the customary condition of anonymity.
The announcement is seen as part of the government’s effort to curb sexual assaults in the military, an entity that has traditionally been dominated by male officers and often considered hostile to speaking out about past wrongdoings.
According to the defense ministry, more than a dozen flag officers are expected to be investigated. The ministry said it would consider transferring sexual assault cases, which had been dealt with by military martial courts, to the civil courts.
“We believe the cases concerning field officers would be massive. There will be limits to conducting an investigation physically… We’re afraid the policy effect will be not as significant as we anticipated,” said the military official concerning the fact that officers below flag officers are exempt from the investigation.
The military added that most of the sexual assaults inside the military were committed by male superiors, but cases involving female superiors have also increased as an increasing number of women chose the military as a career.
In Korea, every able-bodied man is mandated to serve in the military for between 21 and 24 months. Women are exempt from the mandatory military service, but may join the military as an officer or non-commissioned officer.
According to the military reform plan published in December, the ratio of the female applicants seeking to become military officers to the male counterparts will increase to about 8 percent by 2022, reaching about 2,400 compared to the 1,100 of 2017.
By Yeo Jun-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org)