By Park Si-soo
The state human rights watchdog Monday urged police headquarters to establish measures to stem sexual harassment among conscripted police officers in the barracks.
The National Human Rights Commission also called on the chief police officer of the country to launch an anti-sexual crime campaign and provide better treatment to victims.
In Korea, healthy male adults are mandated to serve in the military or police for about two years.
These suggestions came after the family of a 21-year-old riot policeman filed a petition with the commission last month, claiming another officer, surnamed Jin, was repeatedly ordered to take off his pants before senior officers and some of them even touched his private parts. Following the incident, the police authorities were accused of having tried to cover it up.
The watchdog expressed concern over the rigid hierarchy in the police barracks, in which many junior officers are vulnerable to such crimes committed against them by their senior officers.
“In the strict top-down, order-and-obedience environment, such a nasty crime can occur at any time,” it said. “Even worse, few officers have been punished because the authorities treat it lightly.”
Similar victimizing incidents were recently uncovered in the military.
In June, an army colonel under the influence of alcohol sexually harassed his driver soldier in the backseat of his military SUV. The colonel was put behind bars.
Rep. Shin Hak-yong of the opposition Democratic Party denounced lenient punishment for sexual crimes in the barracks in a recent parliamentary inspection of the defense ministry.
According to Shin, only 14 percent of 57 harassment perpetrators against female soldiers since 2003 faced “tough” punishment such as dismissal.