Key witness in Park investigation to be questionedSeoul police officers said Monday that the gender rights adviser to the late Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon — a key witness as they investigate Park’s suicide — has agreed to show up for questioning this week.
Officers at Seongbuk Police Precinct in central Seoul, however, refused to tell local reporters precisely when and where Lim Soon-young will show up, citing the sensitivity of the issue.
Until the weekend, Lim’s refusal to appear for questioning had stymied police investigations of Park, who was found dead on Mount Bukak, near his residence, shortly after midnight on July 10. The Seongbuk Police Precinct has since been investigating Park’s motive for killing himself, which wasn’t addressed in the suicide note left behind at his home.
Park's former female secretary had filed a complaint with the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency on July 8 accusing him of sexually harassing her for more than four years, triggering speculation that Park's fatal decision was due to the complaint.
Lim faces allegations that she was the first person who alerted Park about the secretary’s complaint — even before it was formally filed at 4:30 p.m. on July 8 — although Lim denied this when speaking to local news outlets. The adviser claimed it was only after Park went missing on July 9 that she learned of the accusations against him.
A police officer who spoke on the condition of anonymity Monday said there was a high chance Lim will be questioned at a location other than the Seongbuk Police Precinct, presumably to avoid cameras.
Lim, who was appointed as Park’s gender rights adviser in January 2019, tendered her resignation last Thursday, but the Seoul Metropolitan Government said Friday it decided to suspend her from duty instead, given her need to cooperate with the city’s probe into Park’s sexual harassment allegations.
Kim Chang-ryong, President Moon Jae-in’s nominee for the head of the Korean National Police Agency, said Monday during a confirmation hearing at the National Assembly that he suspects Lim’s questioning session this week to answer “a large part” about the mayor's death.
Yet at the same time, Kim reiterated the police force’s stance that it can’t reopen the sexual harassment probe, given that the law requires them to close a case once the main suspect dies.
“It’s very important to reveal the substantive truth” about the sexual harassment allegations, but related investigations “must happen within the law and rule [system], and within the scope of the police’s role,” Kim responded, when asked by a Justice Party lawmaker whether he was intent on continuing the investigation to reveal the truth behind the allegations.
Kim pushed back against suspicions that the police leaked information about the victim’s complaint to Park, saying the case was informed to the upper echelons based on a national reporting system of crucial cases. Police earlier said it alerted the Blue House about the former secretary’s complaint, as per protocol.
Both the police and the Blue House denied telling Park about it.
As for the rumors about the content of the complaint, which went viral on social media platforms on July 10, Kim said they weren't “congruent with the truth,” or with the actual complaint that the secretary filed, but didn’t specify which claims were false.
The nominee also shrugged off the controversy surrounding the term “a person who complains of damage” — which was used by the Seoul Metropolitan Government and the ruling Democratic Party (DP) in reference to the victim last week — saying it was not significantly different from the term “victim.”
BY LEE SUNG-EUN, KWON HYE-RIM [email@example.com]