The Korea Herald


Ex-Marine investigator indicted for disobeying orders, defaming defense chief

By Choi Si-young

Published : Oct. 6, 2023 - 17:49

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Col. Park Jung-hun (center) appears for questioning by military prosecutors in Seoul on Sept. 20. (Yonhap) Col. Park Jung-hun (center) appears for questioning by military prosecutors in Seoul on Sept. 20. (Yonhap)

South Korea’s military has indicted a former Marine investigator for disobeying the defense minister’s orders not to refer a probe into a Marine’s death to police, and for later defaming the minister by publicly suggesting that the chief had wanted to let accused generals off the hook.

“The charges laid out today amount to a violation that could seriously hurt discipline and morale among troops,” military prosecutors said in a statement, adding that efforts will be made to prove the allegations before the court.

Col. Park Jung-hun maintained that he did not receive an explicit order from the defense minister telling him not to hand over the case of Cpl. Chae Su-geun’s death to police. The Marine draftee died in July during a search and rescue operation to find victims of the heavy rains over the summer. Chae’s death raised concerns over whether sufficient safety precautions were taken during the operation.

Park, who was fired from his post once military prosecutors took back the case from police, has also suggested in media interviews that he had faced outside political pressure to drop the charges against one- and two-star generals, a claim military prosecutors have denied. The indictment Friday does not pin blame for Chae’s death on the generals in question.

In late August, military prosecutors sought to detain Park after questioning, but the court refused to approve the arrest warrant, citing insufficient grounds that the officer might tamper with evidence or flee from authorities. Two more rounds of questioning have taken place since then, before the military turned over the case to court Friday.