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South Korean officer accused of sexual molestation found dead, authorities say

Main opposition party lawmakers in South Korea have called for the resignation of Defense Minister Suh Wook in the aftermath of a sex abuse and death case in the country’s Air Force. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE
Main opposition party lawmakers in South Korea have called for the resignation of Defense Minister Suh Wook in the aftermath of a sex abuse and death case in the country’s Air Force. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE

July 26 (UPI) -- The South Korean defendant in a sex abuse and death case in the country's Air Force died while in custody, officials said. His death was ruled a suicide.

South Korea's Military Human Rights Center said Monday that the defendant with the surname Noh was found unconscious in a restroom about 2:55 p.m. Sunday, JoongAng Ilbo reported.

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Noh was being detained in a special facility for military defendants awaiting trial. The defendant was rushed to a civilian hospital, but died, the report said.

Defense Minister Suh Wook suggested Monday that officers tracking the defendant on video may have been unable to monitor him during his restroom break.

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"Due to human rights concerns, surveillance cameras only track movements in the corridor," Suh told a parliamentary defense committee.

Noh was taken into custody June 2, after allegedly pressuring his victim, a female officer in the 20th Fighter Wing of the Air Force, to drop her complaint.

The defendant allegedly molested the woman insider a car in March while returning to base.

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The woman's family said she reported the case to superiors, but they attempted to cover up the incident and pressured the victim into a settlement with her abuser. She died by suicide in May.

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Noh may have had an accomplice. According to News 1 Monday, the second defendant was detained on charges of threatening the victim with retaliation.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said earlier this month that the military must make "fundamental improvements." Women in South Korea's military previously died by suicide in 2013 and 2017 after alleged sexual assault and rape.

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Local reports have said a senior Air Force official attempted to delete the allegations of sexual harassment in reports about the victim after her death. Air Force Headquarters delayed relaying information about the complaint to the military's office of gender equality in April, according to the JoongAng.

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