Bosses at Seoul Zoo acted like beasts, says report

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Bosses at Seoul Zoo acted like beasts, says report

A non-salaried worker working at Seoul Zoo’s ticket office complained to the Human Rights Center of the Seoul Metropolitan Government last month that women workers often faced highly inappropriate sexual behavior from their superiors.

According to the employee, a department head held her hands and stroked her shoulder, back and even hips during a two-day workshop last summer.

She said a team leader got raunchy with female temporary workers, saying, “It’s good to hang out with young [women]. Give me a hair band, I’m going to tie [my penis] up.”

Even a female official went along with the misconduct, she reported. She told another woman, “It may be your first night together with the team leader if you stay with him tonight.”

The temps didn’t feel they could challenge the inappropriate behavior because they were hoping to get permanent positions in the office. The victims claimed that the team leader often forced them to join drinking parties and took advantage of his power to decide who would get permanent positions.

After a month-long investigation, the Seoul government’s human rights office concluded that the reports were true. The officials advised the municipal government to discipline the zoo officials, who are all civil servants, and establish preventive measures.

The local government said Thursday it will accept the advice of the human rights office and that penalties will soon be finalized.

The Seoul government also promised measures to protect workers in its offices, both salaried and non-salaried, from physical or verbal abuse including bullying and sexual misconduct. A task force comprised of labor lawyers, human rights lawyers and other labor experts will also work on detailed measures and reporting system.

Also, to protect non-salaried workers who cannot actively protest injustices, the Seoul government established a hotline to the head of Economic Planning Office, who is in charge of labor policies.

“We admit that a measure to prevent sexual misconduct made in September wasn’t effective enough to protect temporary workers as well,” said Park Mun-gyu, head of the Employment Policy Division of the Seoul government. “We will work harder to prevent such cases.”

BY KANG IN-SIK AND KIM BONG-MOON [bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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