Korean consul general in Japan probed for misconduct

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Korean consul general in Japan probed for misconduct

A Korean consul general in Japan is undergoing police investigation on allegations of sexually harassing a female member of staff.

Police confirmed Monday that the high-ranking diplomat in his 50s was recently summoned back to Korea on charges of sexually harassing a subordinate female employee at the consulate general at an unspecified region in Japan.

The victim first filed the case with the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission and the commission, after confirming the facts, referred the case to Korean police.

Police said that the first round of investigations had been completed and that they plan to summon the consul general for another round of questioning soon.

Police have also obtained his smartphone for digital forensics.

The case comes amid ongoing diplomatic tension between Seoul and Tokyo following Japan’s recent export restrictions on Korea.

Korea has consulate generals in Sapporo, Sendai, Niigata, Yokohama, Nagoya, Kobe, Osaka, Fukuoka, and Hiroshima, in addition to its embassy in Tokyo.

Last week, police belatedly revealed that an executive with the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (Kotra) in Paris has been incarcerated by French authorities for sexual violence for the past six months. The senior official at Kotra Paris was arrested on charges of sexual violence against a subordinate female employee in January this year.

During investigations by the French police, he claimed that he and the woman “were friendly and had already agreed on the relationship.” However, the police issued an arrest warrant and he has been incarcerated for the past half year. In compliance with Kotra’s regulations, the official was dismissed from the post.

There has been a series of sexual misconduct issues involving Korean diplomats dispatched abroad, an issue highlighted in late 2016 after the Foreign Ministry recalled a diplomat based in the Korean Embassy in Chile who was caught on camera sexually harassing an underage local girl, among other cases of sexual misconduct.

Kim Moon-hwan, a former ambassador to Ethiopia from 2014 to 2017 who was dismissed from his post for sexually harassing two female staff, was sentenced to one year in prison on July 22.

During a parliamentary audit last October, lawmakers revealed that two diplomats had been recalled for sexual misconduct by the Foreign Ministry. A senior diplomat at the embassy in Pakistan in July last year made inappropriate physical contact with a female employee of the embassy after calling her to his home while his own wife was briefly back in Korea.

In a similar case, an official dispatched at the Korean Embassy in India made inappropriate remarks, inviting a female employee to come up to his hotel room at any time, offering her his room key.

One case of sexual misconduct in the Foreign Ministry was reported in 2014, two in 2015, seven in 2016, six in 2017 and four last year as of October.

BY KIM MIN-WOOK, CHOI MO-RAN AND SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]
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