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Defense chief names special prosecutor over death of Air Force sexual abuse victim

09:30 July 19, 2021

SEOUL, July 19 (Yonhap) -- Defense Minister Suh Wook on Monday named a Navy colonel as a special prosecutor for the investigation into the death of an Air Force sexual harassment victim, the defense ministry said.

The appointment of Col. Ko Min-sook -- the first of its kind since the founding of the country's armed forces -- came as the bereaved family has raised complaints that the ongoing probe is not thorough enough.

The master sergeant, surnamed Lee, took her own life in May, about three months after being sexually abused by a colleague. Her family has claimed that her superiors tried to cover up the case rather than trying to protect her.

As a special mission prosecutor, Ko will focus on the alleged irregularities by the Air Force's legal affairs bureau, which has been accused of failing to properly oversee an initial probe into the sexual abuse incident in March.

The appointment of the special mission prosecutor is aimed at ensuring an independent investigation. In the civilian sector, such prosecutors are appointed often to look into internal corruption and other sensitive cases.

Ko can report her findings directly to the defense minister without command from higher-ups, according to the ministry.

"I will do my best to console the victim and the bereaved family and to earn trust from the service members and the public through a strict and fair investigation," Ko said.

Following the intense public fury over the Air Force's mishandling of the case, the ministry took over the case and launched an extensive probe last month.

As of early July, 10 people have been indicted and a dozen others are still under probe for their involvement in the incident.

Defense Minister Suh Wook (L) poses for a photo with Col. Ko Min-sook as she receives a certificate of appointment as the special mission prosecutor in the probe into the death of an Air Force sexual harassment victim at the defense ministry building in Seoul on July 19, 2021, in this photo provided by the defense ministry. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE)(Yonhap)

scaaet@yna.co.kr
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