After the sexual harassment case involving a division commander and a woman commissioned officer, women soldiers have joined hands with women groups to demand the restoration of the victim's honor and the punishment of the perpetrator. They are also calling for the eradication of sexual violence and gender discrimination in the armed forces.
With the women's military academy scheduled to close down in 2002, worries have again risen over how women soldiers can stand up against human rights violations such as sexual assault when they will soon be scattered in various different institutes of training with no significant ties to bind them. Against this backdrop, the women soldiers' actions have gained more significance than ever: they will not only put the brakes on the gender discrimination and sexual violence rampant in Korea's armed forces but also determine the status and future of women soldiers who began serving the country some fifty years ago.
What prodded the women soldiers into action was anger at the helplessness of the victim, who could do nothing to protest even when she had sexually assaulted. In a statement disclosing their position on the case, the servicewomen accused the army of turning a blind eye to the commander's act and failing to protect the victim in spite of the existence of intelligence and supervisory agencies to do the job.
The Ministry of National Defense has set up a 'Committee for the Prevention of Sexual Corruption of Military Discipline' and put it to work. As for the ROK Army, which put into effect a set of regulations for the same purpose after last June when another division commander sexually harassed his subordinate's wife, responded this time by coming up with "supplementary guidelines" to those regulations.
However, some are concerned that making and distributing guidelines amount to nothing more than stopgap measures. Especially discouraging is the fact that the guidelines lack any perspective on 'human rights' and 'equality.'
Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center is currently running a website on sexual violence in the armed forces. The center is planning to form a joint committee with women groups such asWomenlink and Women's Hotline. The committee intends to deliver a "must-do list" to the military: transfer the victim to the reserve list, discharge the assaulter, conduct a survey on the status of sexual harassment in the military, and come up with preventive measures.
Regarding the outcry from women soldiers and Internet users who thought that a three-month suspension of duties was too light a punishment, the army claimed that disciplinary stipulations do not allow anything heavier than three months of suspension for behavior such as commander Kim's.