The Defense Ministry announced on Thursday that a member of the South Korean Air Force had been arrested on allegations of sexually harassing and injuring a female coworker, which led to her suicide.
The master sergeant, who has only been recognized by his surname Jang, is accused of abusing a lady of the same rank in a car on the way back to their post in the western city of Seosan after a meal in March.
According to her family, the victim, named by her surname Lee, was suffering from mental discomfort and was transferred to another base at her request two months after the incident.
She was found dead at her home on the base on May 22, leaving a video on her mobile phone of her death, the family said.
A military court approved Jang’s arrest on Wednesday on charges of violating the Criminal Act by committing indecent acts by compulsion on a member of the military and causing injury.
“He is detained after a hearing and an investigation is under way,” ministry spokesman Boo Seung-chan told a briefing.
The spokesman gave no more details about the case and did not say if the man had legal representation. Jang did not respond to reporters’ questions as he was escorted to the military court on Wednesday, the Yonhap news agency reported.
The case has triggered a public uproar since the woman’s family filed a petition with the presidential Blue House on Tuesday calling for a thorough investigation and punishment for those involved. More than 318,000 members of the public had signed the petition as of Thursday morning.
The woman’s family has accused the air force of trying to cover up the assault on the woman and to silence her.
The air force “deeply acknowledged the gravity of the situation”, a spokesman for the force, Choi Yoon-seok, said. He declined to comment on the family’s accusations, citing the investigation.
President Moon Jae-in ordered an investigation to include how officials in charge handled the case, and he called for measures to prevent any further stigmatisation of Lee and her family, his spokeswoman said.
The problem of sexual abuse in South Korea was thrown into the spotlight by the global #MeToo movement and several high-profile figures from various walks of life have been accused of sexual harassment and assault.