In court, sergeant apologizes for his ‘shameful conduct’
SEOUL — A 2nd Infantry Division soldier accused of raping and robbing a South Korean woman teared up in Seoul Central District Court last week as he apologized for his "shameful conduct."
"I am really sorry to everybody," said Sgt. Jonathan Kim, a Korean-American who spoke during the hearing. "Whatever punishment is imposed on me, I am willing to serve the punishment [with the hopes] that the victim’s trauma can be cured."
Kim has admitted in court that he raped the 22-year-old woman last summer in a Dongducheon alley. On that charge, he faces a three-year prison sentence.
But the local prosecutor, Kang Kyung-rae, argued Friday that Kim deserves another seven years in prison because he is also accused of stealing the woman’s cell phone to prevent her from calling for help during the attack.
The combination of robbery and rape charges could bring a 10-year sentence, Kim’s lawyer has said.
Kim, in past testimony, has denied stealing the phone. He said he threw the phone over his shoulder before the attack, but never meant to steal it or keep it. He said he never looked for it after throwing it.
Judge Lee Gwang-man had called for Friday’s hearing, in part, to review the cell phone’s records. The victim had testified previously that when she returned to the alley with the police after reporting the attack, she couldn’t find her phone. She said she canceled the account and never checked to see if anyone tried to use it.
On Friday, Kang said the victim had refused to cooperate with the records review. The phone was in her mother’s name, and her parents were unaware of the attack or the criminal case. An investigation into the records would require her mother’s cooperation, Kang explained.
Kim’s lawyer, Kim Jong-pyo, argued Friday that his client never meant to steal the phone. The attorney, who is not related to his client, said Kim was drunk and unhappy over his parents’ divorce and his own marriage separation.
Kim, who joined the Army in 2004, has offered 5 million won — about $3,800 — to the victim. In South Korea, defendants in criminal cases often reach financial settlements with their alleged victims in exchange for a lighter prison sentence, though the settlements are not considered an admission of guilt.
The woman has refused any payment.
Kim also has made financial settlements with two women he allegedly assaulted in August in Seoul, his father, Kim Young-jin, told Stripes on Friday.
The women, both 21, withdrew their complaints against Kim, meaning he won’t be tried in those cases.
Kim’s verdict and sentencing is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Jan. 9.