SEOUL - South Korea's human rights watchdog Wednesday ruled against a ban on dating among air force cadets, describing it as discrimination.
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea recommended that the Korea Air Force Academy should revise its code of conduct and lift the ban on romantic relationships, which is in place for the first year of the four-year officer training programme.
The decision followed a complaint by an air force cadet who rejected the ban as a human rights infringement.
The academy has insisted it needs tight regulations because cadets must endure a rigorous and disciplined military lifestyle.
But the watchdog said the ban "infringes upon their constitutional rights". "Rather than banning romantic relationships, it is desirable for them to make a decision for themselves," it said.
"As the cadets are chosen for their military career after fierce competition, they are fully capable of making a judgment on the effects of dating."
State bodies normally abide by the commission's rulings. The watchdog's move comes with the army academy, once touted as the birthplace of elite warriors, facing a loss of public trust over a series of scandals involving sexual misconduct and breaches of discipline.
In May, a senior army academy cadet was expelled for sexually assaulting a female cadet.
Police arrested another army cadet in July for paying for sex with a 16-year-old girl.
In August several army cadets were disciplined for going to a massage parlour while in Thailand for a volunteer mission.
The cases prompted the army academy to cut short cadets' summer breaks and tighten regulations on dating, drinking and smoking.