Extended leave for justice minister’s son approved according to regulations: defense ministry

SEOUL, A controversial medical leave for Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae’s son during his military service was approved in accordance with due regulations and procedures, the defense ministry said Monday.
The 27-year-old son, surnamed Seo, faces allegations that he got special leave for 23 days in June 2017 for knee surgery thanks to the influence of his mother who was the chairwoman of the ruling Democratic Party at the time.
After an initially reported 10 days of sick leave, Seo extended it by nine days after getting approval from his superior officer by phone and then took another four days off as personal vacation.
“We believe that the vacation itself was approved in accordance with related regulations and procedures, as there exist related records of Seo talking to his superior officer,” deputy spokesperson Col. Moon Hong-sik told a regular briefing.
Military rules stipulate that vacation for medical purposes can be extended by phone in case of unavoidable circumstances, and related documents shall be submitted afterward.
But no documents to confirm his medical leave exist in the military, according to the ministry. Seo’s lawyer earlier said that he submitted a medical certificate via email that month.
“After reviewing medical records, the authorities are supposed to determine if a service member is entitled to receive sick leave. Without (the documents), his furlough should be calculated as personal vacation,” the deputy spokesperson said.
“A prosecution probe is under way into why there were no such documents and whether it was appropriate to grant medical leave to him,” he said.
As for allegations that the son took four extra vacation days without getting the approval first, the ministry said that the official confirmation appears to have been made belatedly.
“His interview records show that Seo got the approval for the personal leave in advance, but the official document seems to have been issued belatedly. The reasons for that are also under a probe,” the ministry official said.
Seo served in the Korean Augmentation to the United States Army (KATUSA) for the 2nd Infantry Division of the U.S. Eighth Army in 2016 and 2017. All able-bodied South Korean men are obliged to serve in the military for about two years.
Prosecutors began an investigation into the allegations in January. On Sunday, Seo was questioned for the first time since the probe was launched.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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