7-yr jail term finalized for Air Force officer in high-profile sexual harassment case

SEOUL– The Supreme Court on Thursday finalized a seven-year prison term handed down to a noncommissioned Air Force officer for sexually abusing a female colleague who later took her own life.

The master sergeant, only identified by his surname Jang, was charged with groping Lee Ye-ram, then a 23-year-old female master sergeant affiliated with the Air Force’s 20th Fighter Wing, in March 2021. Jang was also accused of blackmailing her not to report the case to the authorities while sending threatening text messages.

The case drew intense public fury as Lee took her own life two months after the case.

A military court initially sentenced Jang to nine years in prison, but the military appellate court commuted the jail term to seven years, saying that he cannot be solely responsible for Lee’s death.

Following Thursday’s ruling, Lee’s family expressed regret, saying that the lower courts could not convict Jang of threatening charges due to the lack of evidence.

Earlier this year, the National Assembly unanimously passed a bill mandating an independent special counsel probe into the case, including whether any defense ministry and Air Force officials attempted to cover it up.

Special prosecutor Ahn Mi-young wrapped up the investigation earlier this month and indicted five Air Force officers and two others on charges of attempting to cover up the abuse case or defaming the victim.

Source: Yonhap News Agency