Seoul’s mayor sexually harassed secretary before his death, report finds

In a report launched Monday, the unbiased National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRC) discovered that former mayor Park Won-soon’s phrases and actions towards his secretary constituted sexual harassment beneath the nation’s legal guidelines.

The discovering is critical because the alleged sufferer’s case in opposition to Park — who was South Korea’s second-most highly effective official when he died — was by no means heard in courtroom.

Park, a self-proclaimed feminist, was discovered lifeless on a mountainside close to his official residence in July after a seven-hour search. Following his dying, police confirmed that sexual harassment claims had been filed in opposition to him. According to the alleged sufferer’s lawyer, the criticism was filed on July 8 — in the future before Park went lacking.

That sparked a firestorm in South Korea, with some expressing anger that Park’s accuser would by no means get justice. Under South Korean legislation, when a suspect dies, open investigations are closed because the prosecutors haven’t any floor to make an indictment.

Several investigations have been launched into the harassment allegations, together with whether or not the town authorities had been complicit in permitting office sexual harassment.

But the alleged sufferer additionally confronted large backlash on-line from these mourning Park’s dying. Monday’s report provides credence to her accusation that he harassed her for 4 years, even after she moved to a unique division.

“I’ve had a tough four years, but the past six months have been particularly tough,” the alleged sufferer — who can’t be named beneath South Korean legislation — mentioned in an announcement.

What the report discovered

The fee interviewed Park’s accuser and 51 witnesses, and analyzed paperwork submitted by the town authorities, police, prosecutors and Presidential Office.

The report discovered that the alleged sufferer, who was employed as Park’s secretary, was requested to deal with intimate facets of his life, together with dealing with his undergarments before and after he showered. Witnesses additionally testified that Park despatched “inappropriate texts and photos” to the alleged sufferer. Last yr, the secretary’s lawyer Kim Jae-ryon mentioned Park had despatched her footage of himself in his underwear, in addition to obscene, late-night messages over the encrypted app Telegram.

Ultimately, the fee discovered that the alleged sufferer’s accusations in opposition to Park have been credible based mostly on proof and testimony from witnesses.

The NHRC additionally concluded that the Seoul metropolis authorities didn’t correctly take into consideration how its hierarchical construction had contributed to sexual harassment, which impacted Park’s accuser.

Acting Mayor Seo Jeong-hyup mentioned in an announcement that he “humbly accepted” the outcomes of NHRC’s investigation. The assertion additionally mentioned that the Seoul City authorities “politely apologizes to the employee, her family, and the citizens who have been greatly disappointed and concerned by this.” The authorities would take motion to stop an analogous scenario from occurring once more, the assertion added.

But Park’s accuser and her advocates mentioned that extra wanted to be achieved to stop related conditions from occurring.

In an announcement this week, the alleged sufferer mentioned that clarifying the reality was vital. But it was much more essential for presidency businesses to consider methods they might change to enhance the scenario for victims of sexual harassment, she mentioned. Her lawyer Kim advised CNN that whereas the consequence was significant, she was dissatisfied that the fee didn’t rule on how the alleged sufferer’s colleagues and supervisors behaved on the time. When the alleged sufferer complained about Park’s conduct internally, employees on the Seoul City Government advised her that he “wasn’t that kind of person,” the previous secretary claimed final yr.

Korean Women’s Hot Line additionally pointed to how supporters of the late mayor had attacked Park’s accuser on-line with the intention to defend their very own political pursuits. The group known as for faux information and photographs of the alleged sufferer to be taken down, and for perpetrators to be punished.

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The accusations in opposition to Park have been putting, not solely due to his highly effective place, but in addition as a result of he was seen as a progressive chief and an emblem of reform.

A former human rights lawyer, within the Nineties Park represented the sufferer in considered one of South Korea’s first profitable sexual harassment convictions. In the Eighties, he was a part of the staff of legal professionals who represented one of many first ladies to carry expenses of sexual assault in opposition to authorities.

For 9 years he had served as Seoul’s mayor and was seen as a possible presidential candidate.

But Park is considered one of a number of politicians from throughout the political spectrum who’ve been accused of sexual crimes lately.

On Monday — the identical day NHRC’s report was launched — the chief of the progressive Justice Party Kim Jong-cheol was faraway from his place following accusations that he sexually harassed a lawmaker from his celebration.

In 2019, former governor and one-time presidential contender Ahn Hee-jung was sentenced to greater than three years for the rape and assault of his former assistant. And final yr, Oh Keo-don, the mayor of South Korea’s second-largest metropolis, Busan, resigned and apologized for sexual harassment. Both Ahn and Oh have been members of President Moon Jae-in’s Democratic Party.

In 2017, Moon vowed to develop into a “feminist president” and prompted motion on points similar to sexual harassment.

For the previous few years, South Korea has confronted a reckoning in opposition to its deeply patriarchal tradition. Women have pushed again in opposition to discrimination within the office, sexual violence and harassment, and unreasonable magnificence requirements. Nevertheless, the nation continues to rank poorly globally for feminine illustration in authorities and wage equality.

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