Blue House accused of fixing mayor’s quitting time

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Blue House accused of fixing mayor’s quitting time

The main opposition party on Monday accused the Blue House of arranging Busan Mayor Oh Keo-don’s resignation and admission of sexual assault to take place after this month’s general elections, following a revelation that a law firm hired to communicate with the victim was once headed by President Moon Jae-in.

“No one can possibly believe that the Blue House and ruling Democratic Party [DP] had no prior knowledge of the incident,” Rep. Shim Jae-cheol, floor leader and acting chairman of the United Future Party (UFP), said Monday. “Who will believe that Oh did not inform the party about this important incident?”

Busan Mayor Oh resigned Thursday after admitting to molesting a female employee of the city government. The resignation of the 71-year-old politician, the first DP member to win the mayor post of the southern port city in 2018 after three unsuccessful runs, took place one week after the ruling party’s landslide victory in the April 15 general elections.

According to sources, Oh molested the victim in his office for about five minutes on April 7. After receiving a complaint from her, the Busan Counseling Center Against Sexual Violence conducted an investigation, and Oh admitted his wrongdoing. The victim demanded that Oh issue a public apology and resign, and he agreed.

The law firm Busan was hired to notarize Oh’s statement that he would step down before the end of April, making the promise legally binding. Sources informed about the settlement told the JoongAng Ilbo that a Busan city official asked the victim if the resignation could take place after the April 15 general elections, and the victim agreed because she didn’t want her case to be politically exploited.

Busan was established by Moon and the late President Roh Moo-hyun as a group of lawyers specializing in human rights and labor disputes in 1982. After Roh was elected a lawmaker in 1988, he left the office, and Moon upgraded it to a law firm. It is currently headed by lawyer Jung Jae-sung, Roh’s niece’s husband.

Jung is also a political ally of Oh. “Jung worked as the chief recruitment manager of Oh’s mayoral campaign in 2018,” Shim said. “Taking into account these special connections, how can anyone believe that the Blue House had no prior knowledge about the [sexual assault] case?”

Rep. Kwak Sang-do of the UFP on Monday told the JoongAng Ilbo that an aide to Oh, who arranged the settlement, was a former presidential aide in Moon’s Blue House. “His previous job was an assistant secretary to President Moon,” said Kwak.

“The Blue House’s civil servants’ discipline audit office must conduct an investigation into whether the former aide informed the Blue House about Oh’s sexual assault or if Oh reported to the Blue House himself or if it was the law firm Busan that made the report,” Kwak said.

“The possibility is growing that President Moon knew about this scandal before the general elections,” Kwak continued. “The Blue House
must explain itself to the public.”

The UFP said Kwak and three lawmakers-elect who were former prosecutors had formed a team to investigate the link between Oh’s resignation and the Blue House.

“If the Blue House had adjusted the timing of the resignation, this is undeniably intervention in the elections,” said a UFP official. “We will continue to raise the issue until our suspicion is investigated and answered.”

The DP said that despite the link, there was no reason to believe the law firm informed the Blue House. “It was pure coincidence,” said Rep. Song Gab-seok, spokesman of the DP. “It is unreasonable presumption to make the link.”

Later Monday afternoon, the DP convened an ethics tribunal and expelled Oh. Six of nine tribunal members attended and unanimously agreed to kick him out. Oh did not make any defense, and the party said it had conducted an internal investigation before expelling him.

While the UFP demanded that Oh be arrested immediately as a criminal suspect, the whereabouts of Oh and his former political aides remained unknown since the mayor’s resignation. Lawyer Jung, the head of Busan, refused to answer the media’s inquiries about them.

After holding a seven-minute press conference to admit to his sexual assault and resign Thursday, Oh left the Busan Metropolitan Government building and did not return to either of his two residences. Twelve of his aides have ignored queries from the media and the Busan Metropolitan Government.

BY HYUN IL-HOON, SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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