Liberal hypocrisyOn June 23, 2017, Kim Jung-sook, the first lady, invited the ruling Democratic Party (DP)’s female politicians for a luncheon at the Blue House. At the time, some ruling party female lawmakers and Minister of Gender Equality designee Chung Hyun-back had called for the resignation of Blue House staffer Tak Hyeon-min, as his writings in the past implied undesirable sexual misconduct.
However, 14 ruling party lawmakers, including Kim Sang-hee and Park Kyung-mee, did not address Tak’s behavior at the luncheon. I heard that some brought up the issue, but Kim Jung-sook refrained from answering directly. As the Blue House made it clear that the appointments were the president’s exclusive authority, the DP’s “female warriors” could not properly raise the issue.
Aside from Tak, there are other people who withdrew after President Moon Jae-in’s appointments. Kim Ki-jung withdrew 11 days after the nomination to the deputy director of the Office of National Security after a women’s group protested his inappropriate behavior when he was a professor. Minister of Justice nominee Ahn Kyung-hwan also withdrew due to his suspicious marriage record and inappropriate comments like, “Women should be present when having drinks.” When Moon visited New York in September 2017, a civil servant was sexually inappropriate toward a female intern, and security service staffers were reprimanded for condoning the situation, harming the reputation of the “progressive, feminist president.”
The DP’s response was also disappointing. When 67-year-old playwright and theatrical director Lee Yoon-taek’s sexual scandal emerged on Feb. 14, the ruling party remained silent for a while and issued a statement six days later. Lee, a leading figure in progressive theater, is a high school classmate of Moon. He was listed as the No. 1 figure on the Park Geun-hye administration’s blacklist for giving a speech supporting Moon Jae-in for the 2012 presidential election and for calling Moon “a man of high morality and beautiful mind.”
For last year’s presidential election, Moon reportedly called Lee and said he would not be persecuted anymore. Lee allegedly said that Moon should focus on the campaign without worrying about him.
If the Democratic Party was reluctant to condemn Lee because of their friendship or partisanship, it deserves to be criticized for hypocrisy as the ruling party has always advocated women’s rights.
As an aide to lawmaker Shim Ki-joon, head of the DP’s Gangwon Province Chapter, was investigated by the police for an allegation of sexual harassment in Pyeongchang, the DP said he was in Pyeongchang on his personal business. In May 2017, when a sexual harassment case by a party official of the Busan chapter of the DP was hushed for nine months, the minor opposition Justice Party issued a statement denouncing the incident. When prosecutor Seo Ji-hyeon exposed her sexual harassment, the DP was quick to issue a statement condemning the offender and criticized conservative figures who attempted to cover up the widespread sexual misconduct in the prosecution.
The DP and progressive faction denounces the former Saenuri Party for the conservative party’s sexual misconduct and misogyny. But the latest incidents show that some ruling party and liberal figures also may have the wrong views on women and sexual awareness. Some liberals believe that liberalism is justice and that the ends justify the means. Such self-justification as seen in their descriptions of sexual misconduct as a “usual practice” led to hypocrisy.
The Korean Me Too movement should not just be rhetoric. The ruling Democratic Party should take action to eradicate widespread sexual misconduct. It must investigate the party, government and cultural circles thoroughly and punish offenders. Only then can they part with the outdated practice of advocating progressivism while condoning sexual misconduct.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 22, Page 34
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.