Steamy talk lands GNP lawmaker in hot water
Kang Yong-seok, 41, a first-term lawmaker representing the Mapo District of Seoul, allegedly made remarks, including one involving President Lee Myung-bak, at a dinner last week with about 20 university students, about half of them female.
The GNP leadership has ordered its ethics committee to conduct an urgent probe, vowing to expel Kang from the party if the allegations are confirmed.
After a national university debate competition, Kang had a dinner at a restaurant near Hongik University around 7 p.m. on Friday. Students who were at the dinner told the JoongAng Ilbo Monday that Kang had made what they considered as crude comments.
"The debates judges actually do not listen to the debates. They just look at the faces of the participants," Kang was quoted as saying by one person who attended the dinner. "I will give you a recommendation on how to form a good panel. Two ugly persons and one pretty person are the best.
That will make the judges pay attention."
The lawmaker said women who graduate from prestigious schools often refuse to do so because of their pride.
"His remarks gave an impression of sexual favors in return for career advancement," said a student who was at the dinner. "I felt very uncomfortable listening to him, and you can imagine how upsetting it was for her."
Another student also complained. "I attended the debate as a part of self-development effort. But, Kang said the judges made their evaluations not based on performance, but appearances, and it is a great disappointment. I felt insulted."
Kang also reportedly made inappropriate remarks to a female student about her Blue House visit last year. Kang had accompanied her during the visit.
"At the time, the president only looked at you," Kang was quoted as telling the student. "All men are the same. They all like pretty women. If the president's wife was not there, he probably would have asked for your phone number."
Kang dismissed the allegations. "I did not say anything that made the students feel uncomfortable." he said. "Democratic Party Representative Jeon Hyun-jeui joined the dinner about five minutes later after my arrival. She knows what happened."
Jeon, however, said she arrived at the dinner about one hour later. "I had no chance to talk to Kang directly," she said. "We drank during the dinner, but Kang was not drunk."
Another student also said Jeon came about an hour later.
Facing a scandal which will likely deal a blow to the party ahead of next Wednesday's by-elections, the GNP vowed a probe and promised to take
stern action. GNP Chairman Ahn Sang-soo ordered the party's ethics committee to launch an urgent investigation into the scandal.
"If the report proves to be true, we will expel Kang from the party," GNP spokeswoman Cho Hae-jin quoted Ahn as saying.
GNP's female lawmakers also issued a statement, demanding the party leadership take the strongest punishment if the probe finds Kang responsible
for what he had said.
The expulsion is the heaviest punishment under the GNP constitution and rules. To kick a lawmaker out, two thirds of the ethics committee must approve the measure and two thirds of the GNP lawmakers must uphold the decision.
Kang passed the bar in 1991 and practiced as an attorney since 1997. In 2004, he ran for the National Assembly on the GNP ticket but lost. He made a second bid in 2008 and won the seat.
The Democratic Party condemned Kang, demanding him to give up his legislative post.
"It is the least that the GNP can do to show respect to the people by kicking Kang out of the GNP," said DP spokesman Woo Sang-ho. "When will it be possible for the Grand National Party to escape from its embarrassing nickname of 'Sex National Party'? The future of the ruling party is simply deplorable."
It is not the first time that the conservative ruling party has been embarrassed by a sex scandal. In 2006, Choi Yeon-hee, who was a three-term lawmaker and GNP secretary-general, was accused of sexually molesting a female journalist at a dinner. While holding onto his lawmaker seat, Choi left the GNP in the aftermath of the scandal and finished his term. He was reelected as an independent lawmaker representing Donghae and Samcheok in Gwangwon in 2008 elections.
By Ser Myo-ja