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General indicted for corruption

Oct 12,2017
Gen. Park Chan-ju of the Korean Army, who formerly led the 2nd Operational Command, has been indicted by military prosecutors on bribery and corruption charges, the National Defense Ministry announced Wednesday.

The ministry said it will ask non-military prosecutors to look into Park’s wife who, along with her husband, were accused of treating soldiers assigned to manage their house as “slaves.” The military could not press that accusation against Park due to the absence of any internal rules forbidding him from “exploiting soldiers for private use,” said the ministry.

If civilian prosecutors take on Park’s wife, she could be charged with coercion for forcing them to wear electronic bracelets so they could be called at any time.

Park was accused of lending 220 million won ($193,380) to a businessman in 2014, who ran a scrap metal company, only to receive 50 million won in interest over the following seven months. The CEO also gave the general 7.6 million won worth of high-end dining, airfare and hotel accommodation, the ministry found.

The military saw it as a case of bribery because the businessman won a contract with the 2nd Operational Command of the Korean Army when Park was chief of the formation between September 2015 and August this year.

Park was also accused of misusing his authority when he accepted a lieutenant colonel’s favor to assign him to commanding officer of a battalion, which would be a case of corruption, if true.

Park’s downfall first ignited in early August when the Center for Military Human Rights Korea, a civic organization that investigates military human rights issues, revealed that a soldier assigned to his residence attempted suicide in 2015 as a result of stress caused by the couple’s demands. The center added that soldiers assigned to the commander served essentially as “slaves” to him and his family.

On top of household chores, the military rights center said the couple would go on verbal tirades if soldiers were late to respond to their calls.

One such soldier had to wear an electronic bracelet that vibrated every time Park or his wife pressed a bell in their house, which spanned some 160 pyeong (5,693 feet).

One soldier was even forced to attend church despite being a Buddhist, according to the center.

BY LEE CHUL-JAE [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]