Harassment on Moon’s trip to U.S. is confirmed

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Harassment on Moon’s trip to U.S. is confirmed

The Blue House said Wednesday that a member of President Moon Jae-in’s entourage on a New York trip last year was punished for sexual misconduct, but denied that it tried to cover up the incident.

According to an official at the Blue House, a ministry employee, who accompanied Moon to New York in September 2017, sexually harassed a female intern hired locally for the presidential visit. The offender was heavily punished and the incident was not publicized to protect the victim’s privacy, the source said.

“The victim and the victim’s family did not want the incident to be made public and showed concern that they would face secondary suffering,” the source said. “So, we did not give an official media briefing at the time.”

According to the source, the victim filed a complaint shortly after the official sexually harassed her. The civil servant was immediately sent back to Korea and the Blue House conducted a thorough investigation, the source said.

Because the Blue House had no authority to punish the ministry official, he was dismissed from his assignment with the presidential office and sent back to his ministry. The ministry was recommended to heavily punish him, the source said.

“The offender faced a three-month suspension,” the source said. “During the investigation and disciplinary process, we offered explanations to the victim and her family and they made no other complaints.”

He added, “I want to assure you that we made no attempt to protect the offender. Nor did we fail to properly address the issue.”

He refused to discuss the details of the sexual harassment because it could cause more pain to the victim.

The Chosun Ilbo reported Tuesday that the ministry official committed verbal sexual harassment during a conversation with the intern, and she notified other government officials. The report said the Blue House held sexual abuse prevention training in November after keeping silent about the September case.

“The report said the Blue House belatedly conducted the training after the incident, but we give training on the code of conduct to all public servants before every presidential trip,” the Blue House official said Wednesday.

Moon was told about the incident, the source said, but it was unclear if he was briefed about it during the trip.

It was not the first time a presidential trip was involved in a sexual abuse scandal. In May 2013, President Park Geun-hye fired spokesman Yoon Chang-jung in the middle of a trip to the United States after he was accused of sexually assaulting an intern from the Korean Embassy.

The Moon administration is pushing a campaign to fight sexual abuse in the government and public offices following the revelation of sexual molestation of a prosecutor by her senior colleague.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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