Issues of sexual violence and harassment in the military tend to be less visible than in general companies due to their unique closedness.

The facts of the case of Air Force Sgt. Ye-ram Lee and Army Private Private Seong-ju Yoon were revealed only after they lost their lives.

Even at this time, somewhere in the military, there must be soldiers who are suffering from sexual violence, beatings, atrocities, and bullying.



Given this situation, there is no need to say any more about the US Forces Korea, which is called the 'extraterrestrial jurisdiction in Korea'.

This is the reason why the voices of Korean workers working in the USFK have not been able to cross the wall outside the unit.

The story of a dental hygienist who served in the USFK and was fired last year, therefore, needs to be taken seriously.

Hundreds of pages of complaints filed with the Ministry of Employment and Labor, articles on Internet bulletin boards written like a diary, and various documents sent to the US military have reconstructed what he had been through for eight years.

We also covered what went wrong and what needs to be changed.


“I was sexually assaulted by the dentist within a month of joining the company”

Mo (45) Lee started working as a dental sterilizer at a US military base in Daegu in June 2012.

Although the surrounding environment and people were all unfamiliar, I tried to do my best in everything as I thought it was a lifelong job.

According to Mr. Lee, on a weekend evening about a month after joining the company, on the way home from exercise, the then-Korean-American officer, then-Dental A, suggested that we have dinner together.

Mr. Lee was the boss at work, so we ate together and drank at the pub for the second time.

Afterwards, Director A encouraged him to go home and drink one more drink at the pub, but Mr. Lee could not refuse.

Around midnight, Director A said, 'There is a curfew, let's rest for a while,' and dragged Mr. Lee to the motel entrance.

Mr. Lee refused, and Director A was persistent.

In the process, sexual harassment occurred.


Mr. Lee ㅣ Complainant of sexual assault, etc.


Weekends and weekdays are called curfew.

If there's a curfew and you're out at that time, usually the lightest punishment is relegation.


- Is it a normal suggestion to ask (teacher where) to go in?


= This person is not even a supervisor right above you.

For example, I'm a private, and he's a completely uh


-commander-in-chief?


= That's the level.

As for a soldier.


That... in the future... something... ha... I honestly don't think I want to remember much.





“The relationship between me and the director was the difference between a company commander and a private soldier in terms of soldiers,” said Lee.

In February 2018, Mr. Lee reported the incident to the unit.

At that time, Mr. Lee was serving in another US military unit.

I asked Mr. Lee why it took 6 years to report it.



"I had to keep going to work, so I endured it again and again. At the same time, I was told to just die more. But I was so angry that I had to go through more terrible things in the new unit. will," he replied.


"The commander of the new unit who raped me told me to take the morning-after pill the next day."

Mr. Lee continued to be hesitant to talk about what happened on 'that day', which he said was more horrific. It seemed like a question to put your hand in the boiling water again, so I waited for the water to cool. And finally, Mr. Lee struggled to confess.



The year he moved from Daegu to the US military base in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi-do was 2016. The incident occurred in the fall of that year. Director B, a new Korean-American officer, offered Mr. Lee a meal. I was afraid that Mr. Lee might be a bad person again. However, I accepted the proposal, thinking that I could not live with doubting people. After eating together as friends, we had a light drink. Other employees also watched a movie or ate food at Director B's house, and did not feel anything strange while they were together, so Mr. Lee said, "Director B could not refuse the offer to have one more drink at his house." "It's true that I couldn't shake it off..." I couldn't continue to say.



Mr. Lee is said to have lost his mind after drinking a glass of unbranded alcohol that Director B brought to him 'that day'. As soon as I woke up the next day, I returned home and received a call from Director B. My eyes darkened at the words of the director, 'It would be better to take the morning-after pill.'



Mr. Lee immediately went to the local obstetrics and gynecology clinic and received a prescription. Director B called him to the hospital with the intention of seeing clearly what he had done. The medical expenses were paid by Mr. Lee. He said he had no idea what to do. Regarding the situation at the time, Mr. Lee said, "I wanted to make it clear that I did not call the hospital to get money from that person.



It is said that the US military stationed overseas selects 20 excellent employees in the dental field and gives them regular awards. It is the 'Pacific Regional Dental Command TOP 20' award. Mr. Lee received this twice. It is said that there have been no cases of Koreans other than Mr. Lee. Ironically, it is thanks to all this hard work to forget the trauma. Two sexual assault incidents alone could have put him on the ring of work, but Mr. Lee did not.


Mr. Lee, the accuser of sexual assault, etc.


They have one drink they brought from their hometown, and they show it, but the bottle has no label.


After eating, I was sitting on the sofa and I was very sleepy.

So I fell asleep.

Yes.


- But what did you call the next day?


= But the next day after this and that...

I came home and said that I should take some of that (morning-after-contraceptive pill)


= Yes, so I went to the hospital because I thought I would need to do that.

I said come

I.

We went together.

Yes, so I paid.

I didn't do this to get money from you, so I paid and took bad medicine...



"Why don't you get married, aren't you a lesbian?"...

sexual assault on a daily basis

It was when I was working for the US military base in Daegu. An American married male colleague tried to make unwanted physical contact in a disinfection room, etc. It is said that he even sent an SNS message saying he would visit Mr. Lee's house. When he refused this, the married man made up nonsensical comments to Mr. Lee, such as 'I'm not interested in men because I'm a lesbian', and said that he did not hesitate to use the word 'whore'. Unbearable, Mr. Lee reported to his superior and demanded action, but did not listen to Mr. Lee, a Korean.



It happened while I was serving in the US military base in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi-do. I found that my co-workers were typing into their computers that they worked more hours than they worked. In addition, there were colleagues who made 'treatment decisions' that a dental hygienist should not make to inflate performance. When Mr. Lee inquired about the circumstances, from then on, they repaid with bullying and malicious rumors. Mr. Lee gradually became isolated from his surroundings.



Mr. Lee's mouthful words were bent and refracted, and were dismissed as nagging and nonsense. April 2020, the height of the corona virus. Orders have been issued not to use dental common disinfection instruments due to the risk of infection. Mr. Lee followed and his colleague did not. He could have pretended not to have seen it, but Mr. Lee did not, and his position became narrower and he was driven on a sharp needle.



It is said that this happened once.

A Korean-American medical doctor handed out expired food to Korean workers.

They were originally sold at the in-house kiosk, but they were offered free of charge that day.

It is said that some of the food handed out had sharp teeth marks.

Angry, Mr. Lee sent an e-mail requesting correction to the middle manager to prevent recurrence.

The answer that came back was, "I talked to the surgeon and they said that the food had more than 10 days left before the expiration date. Don't lie."

To make matters worse, Korean workers who received expired food were also hesitant to come forward as witnesses.




After this incident, Mr. Lee became an isolated employee.

In the meantime, if my colleagues secretly bullied me by talking behind my back, now I have started bullying them openly.

It was pointed out that the sound of opening and closing the door of an iron cabinet is loud when changing clothes, and that it is violent.

Even if he ate a boiled egg while the patient wasn't there, he was severely reprimanded, saying, 'Why do you eat food during work hours?'

Mr. Lee couldn't stand it any longer.

He vowed to 'just work' and began to bring out the sealed things one by one.



February 2021.

Including the sexual harassment case in Daegu, which had already requested an investigation, Mr. Lee summarized the sexual assault cases at the Pyeongtaek base and workplace harassment cases that occurred in the meantime, and requested the USFK Crime Command to investigate.

However, two months later, the reply that Mr. Lee received was a 'Notice of Plan for Resignation' instead of 'under investigation'.

And four months later, the 'Notice of Decision on Removal' flew.




According to the 'Notice of Decision to Be Removed' from the USFK, Mr. Lee caused a disturbance in the workplace and made false or malicious statements that damage the reputation and authority of individuals or institutions.

“Everything seems to have gone wrong after I reported the sexual harassment case in Daegu,” Lee said.


Mr. Lee, accused of sexual assault, etc. First of all, it's


milk, soy milk, and other snacks.

Ramen, etc. First of all, there were things like ramen, which I raised a problem with, and as a human being, that is the basics.

And if you usually bring something like food and share it with everyone, that would be very grateful.

But if there is such a thing as taking what you eat and giving it to you, it is very unpleasant.


It was called CID, and I made a request to the U.S. Criminal Command, and went there and followed the procedures.

Then it's obvious.


- What kind of reply did you get?


= I've heard that it's almost impossible to get a reply, so it's just a non-prosecution.


- Any reason?


= I remember that you didn't tell me in detail.

And as soon as I heard about the non-prosecution, I got a little excited.

I was a little angry then.

That's why I asked who you died to investigate.


Considering this is a typical company, I was wondering how long this place would last.

A place where principles are broken cannot last that long.

I think so.



U.S. military side, "Why are you calling from a branch office other than the headquarters of the Ministry of Employment and Labor?"

Mr. Lee first went to the labor attorney.

It was not a fight that was started to win the USFK.

It was because I thought it would be too unfair to accept the dismissal at the workplace where I had worked hard for over 8 years.

Together with the labor attorney, we collected all the evidence that could be evidenced, such as complaints made on the Internet, emails exchanged with officials, text messages, and hospital medical records.

So over the course of a few days, I traced my memory and completed the '8 Year Record'.



The next destination was the Pyeongtaek branch of the Ministry of Employment and Labor.

Supervisor Ji-hyun Yoon, who thoroughly reviewed the records, wrote an improvement guide to the purpose of 'to inform the results of the treatment'.

However, it was not easy to send out the map.

"I sent a registered mail to the US military base in Pyeongtaek, but it was returned, and I called several times, but there was no connection," said Superintendent Yoon.



According to Supervisor Yoon, the personnel officer said, "Why did the branch office of the Ministry of Employment and Labor immediately contact the US military?" instead of talking about the incident.

Supervisor Yoon laughed bitterly, saying, "It was an incident that our people experienced within the US military base, so they asked me to investigate and inform you of the results, but the person in charge just repeated the reply, 'I will deal with it in accordance with SOFA.'"


Ji- Hyeon YoonㅣMinistry of Employment and Labor, Pyeongtaek Branch Supervisor


, I sent out a guideline for improvement.

However, it was difficult to confirm the address we could receive even for mail, and registered mail was also returned.

I contacted the US military base, but it was not easy to contact them by phone.


I found the contact information of the person in charge of the USFK Human Resources Department, and it was not easy to call him too.

After several attempts, I found out about the e-mail information, so I sent a guide to our improvement by e-mail.



First of all, at the branch office, I talked badly about the fact that the branch office directly contacted me rather than the headquarters of the Ministry of Employment and Labor.

I first looked at the contents of the damage suffered by the people and asked for an official response, but I received a reply saying that what happened within the US military base should proceed according to the procedure in accordance with the SOFA agreement.


The difficult thing was that we had to conduct an investigation before we took direct action, and we had to inform you about the damage.


What is the SOFA labor clause?

SOFA Article 17 (Labor Clause) reads as follows: <The Korean Labor Law shall be followed, except where there is a separate provision and the case is contrary to military necessity> Article 17 contains the provisions for dismissal. Because there is no war or a situation equivalent to war, other disciplinary matters except for dismissal, as well as issues of sexual violence and harassment in the workplace, must follow the Korean Labor Law.



However, the US military continues to confront the South Korean government, interpreting 'conform with' as ​​'to comply' rather than as a mandatory rule. The HR manager's statement that "we will deal with SOFA" seems to be based on this.




So, what about the dismissal clause in SOFA? In other words, what kind of procedure will Mr. Lee take in the future? On the 23rd of next month, the US military side will hold its own appeal review committee (appeal committee). If it is concluded that there is no problem with the dismissal procedure, the Korean government can intervene from then on. After the Ministry of Employment and Labor reexamine the results of the appeals committee on the US side, if it is determined that there is a reason to argue, it can propose to the US military side to hold a special review committee (special committee). The special committee is composed of equal numbers of no more than six members from Korea and the United States. If there is a 3 to 3 difference of opinion, the diplomatic delegation in which the ambassadors of the two countries and others participate is supposed to renegotiate. The process of getting to the special committee is difficult, and even if you go there, you can be rock smashing with an egg.



There is another pitfall here. The point is that even if the Ministry of Employment and Labor requests the U.S. military to hold a special committee, it may be delayed. This is because SOFA only says 'I will respond in a timely manner', and there are no sanctions for non-compliance. “In the past five years, there have been 7 cases of Korean workers in USFK reporting that they have been fired,” said Jeong Taek-su, an officer in charge of the Ministry of Employment and Labor. In other words, there are no statistics on how many of the 12,500 Korean workers were fired during this period.



Choi Ji-hye, a labor attorney in charge of Mr. Lee's case, said, "Korean workers in the USFK are also people who pay taxes to our country, such as the National Pension Service and Health Insurance." However, it is a cruel situation where you are not properly protected by domestic labor laws just because you are working in the US military base.”


Choi Ji-hyeㅣLabor Attorney


Of course, workers at domestic companies are also complaining about difficulties in workplace bullying and Gapjil a lot these days.

Nevertheless, in the case of the USFK, like this one, it is a very special and closed form of employment.

In this form, they are clearly experiencing more difficulties in the methods and procedures for appealing against workplace harassment or abuse than domestic companies.

In fact, the Korean workers working in the USFK are also the same workers, paying the same four major insurances.

Nevertheless, there is no remedy for workplace bullying, and there is room for contention, even if you have to be fired for this.



Even so, the SOFA agreement is given priority, so the minimum rights as a Korean worker are not protected against this.

In particular, I feel very sorry for this reality that requires tremendous courage and strength to inform the world of this unfortunate situation.


U.S. troops are stationed in Germany and Japan, but...

The Ministry of Employment and Labor studied the cases of Germany and Japan, where US troops are stationed like ours, in order to improve the unreasonable part of SOFA.

According to this, in Germany, the US military directly hires German workers, just like us.

The biggest difference is that the labor provisions were amended to 'must' follow the German labor law.

At first, like us, the US military had the decision-making power, but it was changed to favor its own people.



In Japan, the Ministry of Defense employs its own citizens and then provides work to the U.S. military in an indirect employment method.

Since the Japanese government pays wages, Japan can also directly coordinate labor relations.

This means that both countries have tighter legal protection mechanisms for their own citizens than for us.



Ahead of the protest committee, Mr. Lee has an anxious mind.

He said it was the fear of 'can we continue this fight?'

He said that he didn't even dare to think that he could win.

However, he said, “I had no choice but to raise my voice because the US military seems to have a perception that Koreans do not resist much even if they fire them at will.”

It is not yet certain whether the small ball launched by Mr. Lee will explode in the middle or spread out into the sky.

One thing is clear: he took the '8-year record' and crossed the wall of the US military base and made it known to the world.

The battle between these 'seeds' starts now.



(Interviewer: Jo Jo-ho, Producer: Do-kyun Kim, Edit: Yong-hee Jung, Design: Jin-young Choi, Producer: D Content Planning Department)

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