South Korea’s air force chief resigned on Friday following the death of a female master sergeant who took her own life after being sexually abused by a colleague.
Air force Chief Gen. Lee Seong-yong who said he took “heavy responsibility” for the victim’s death, offered to step down a day after an air force master sergeant was arrested on charges of molesting a female colleague inside a car in March while returning to their base after a dinner meeting.
The family of the victim said she had suffered mental distress and persistent bullying, and accused the air force of trying to cover up the assault and silence her over the past two months.
According to a presidential petition filed by the woman’s family, she reported the case to her superiors but killed herself in May after they tried to cover up the incident and pressured her to reach a private settlement with her abuser.
As of Friday afternoon, more than 340,000 people had signed the petition, which called for the punishment of air force officials involved in any cover-up.
President Moon Jae-in immediately accepted Lee’s resignation, his press secretary said, making him the shortest serving South Korean air force chief after appointing him in September.
The public anger prompted Moon to order the military on Thursday to conduct a thorough investigation on how the air force handled the case.
South Korea’s military has long been criticized for its failures to protect female troops and officers from sexual harassment and violence.
In 2017, a female naval officer killed herself after being raped by a senior officer, who later was sentenced to 15 years in prison. In 2013, a female army officer killed herself after being harassed by a male superior who pressured her to have sex with him. He was sentenced to two years in prison. (Source: Mainichi Japan)