SNU criticized for handling of sexual assault case

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SNU criticized for handling of sexual assault case

Sexual assault accusations circling a 54-year-old Seoul National University (SNU) professor came to light earlier this year when more than 20 female students made allegations that he had groped them.

But the case grew even more controversial Thursday when the prestigious school announced it would approve the suspect’s voluntary resignation letter, putting him in what critics say are strikingly more favorable conditions than if he were to be dismissed by the university.

If SNU upholds its decision, the professor will not see a cut in his severance pay or his pension. His records will also be clean and he will be able to apply for employment at other universities. The school’s investigation into the accusations, which is being conducted by the campus human rights center, will also close because he will no longer be a faculty member.

“It will take an exhaustive amount of time for us to decide whether to discipline him or not,” said Kim Byeong-mun, dean of SNU’s academic affairs, adding that the students who are required to take the professor’s courses will suffer in the long run should the probe continue.

But a university official who asked for anonymity calls this a “lame excuse.”

“It’s preposterous to let him go when the investigation is at its peak,” the official said.

The official added that sexual abuse “runs rampant” on campuses.

The victims, who have formed what they call an emergency planning committee, said in a press conference on Thursday at the university in Gwanak District, southern Seoul, that the school has not taken enough initiative to resolve the issue.

“We requested a thorough investigation [into this case] on numerous occasions, but neither the school nor the human rights center is taking proper measures,” the committee said.

The professor, surnamed Kim, was initially grilled by prosecutors in July when he was suspected of sexually assaulting a female student in her 20s from a different university. Kim reportedly escorted the female to a bench near the Han River, told her to sit on his lap and groped her chest.

In a press release Wednesday, the victims’ committee accused Kim of assaulting at least 22 students. The statement said Kim had groped the women after inviting them for dinner.

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