Opposition party demands nat'l security chief's resignation over soldier death

SEOUL, Aug. 6 (Yonhap) -- The main opposition party demanded Wednesday that President Park Geun-hye's national security chief step down over the brutal death of a soldier that took place during his time as defense minister, accusing the official of trying to cover up the incident.

The 23-year-old Army private first class, surnamed Yoon, died in April after allegedly being hit in the chest by his senior enlisted soldiers and choking on some snacks at their barracks.

The case, which was recently reported in the press, has sparked public outrage in a country where all able-bodied men must carry out about two years of compulsory military service to protect the country from North Korea.

On Tuesday, Park called for "exemplary punishment" of those responsible for the soldier's death, prompting the Army chief of staff to offer his resignation hours later.

Calls have grown within the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) for the resignation of national security chief Kim Kwan-jin amid allegations the then defense minister was briefed on the exact circumstances that led to the soldier's death.

"In this case, we can only point out that (then) Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin was aware of the truth but tried to cover it up, so we believe it is right for him to take responsibility in this regard," Park Young-sun, the interim chief of NPAD, said in a local radio interview.

Kim has rejected the accusations in a statement issued by the defense ministry, saying the briefing he received did not contain the "grotesque" details reported in the press. He also said he took the case "seriously" and ordered a thorough examination.

The ruling Saenuri Party's chief, Kim Moo-sung, dismissed the opposition party's calls.

"The Army chief of staff has taken all responsibility," he told reporters. "As a nation in a ceasefire (with North Korea), it isn't right for the top security official to be shaken and changed frequently."

On Tuesday, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Kwon Oh-sung offered to resign, holding himself responsible for Yoon's death and other incidents at barracks.

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