Former Defense Minister Heads to Australia as Ambassador Amid Controversy

SEOUL - Former South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup embarked on his journey to Australia to assume his new role as Seoul's ambassador to Canberra on Sunday, following a lift on his travel ban by the justice ministry. The ban was initially imposed over allegations of Lee's involvement in delaying the findings of a military investigation into the death of a Marine, who died during a search operation for victims of heavy rainfalls last July.

According to Yonhap News Agency, the travel restrictions on Lee, which were disclosed subsequent to his ambassadorial appointment announcement last Monday, sparked considerable controversy. Lee appealed against the ban, leading to its revocation by the justice ministry's travel ban deliberation committee on Friday, citing extended bans without significant inquiry and Lee's recent cooperation with investigative authorities.

Lee's departure from Incheon International Airport for Brisbane via Korean Air was confirmed on Sunday evening. This move has drawn criticism from the Democratic Party (DP), which sees Lee's departure as a hindrance to the ongoing investigation. DP members protested at the airport, accusing Lee of using his diplomatic appointment to evade justice.

Despite these allegations, the ruling People Power Party supports Lee's appointment, suggesting that his position as ambassador will foster deeper bilateral cooperation between South Korea and Australia across various sectors. The debate over Lee's departure underscores the political tensions surrounding his involvement in the military probe and the implications for South Korean diplomatic relations.

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