South Korea’s air force chief resigned Friday over the suicide of a woman master sergeant who was allegedly sexually assaulted by a colleague only to have her complaints ignored.
The incident has caused an outcry in the South, which maintains a conscript army to defend itself against the nuclear-armed North and remains deeply patriarchal despite its economic and technological advances.
The master sergeant, identified only by her surname Lee, is said to have been assaulted by her colleague in a vehicle in March, according to the defense ministry.
She filed a complaint, but her family says she was pressured by her superiors to drop the case and sign a settlement.
She was then transferred to a different base at her own request and found dead at her quarters late last month.
Her family says she left footage of her death on her phone, and her mother told a local broadcaster: “How can you protect a country when you can’t even protect a member of your own military? How could you make her feel this lonely? How could you make her feel there was no one there for her and she had to make such an extreme choice?”
By Friday afternoon around 350,000 people had signed a petition to the presidential office, calling for a thorough investigation.
A suspect in the case was arrested earlier this week and an investigation is continuing.
Air force chief general Lee Seong-yong offered his resignation Friday, which was quickly accepted by President Moon Jae-in.
“I feel heavy responsibility over the series of circumstances,” the general said.
“I express my deep condolences to the victim and extend sincere condolences to the bereaved family.”