Park ally apologizes for sexual harassment allegations against late mayorThe chair of the ruling Democratic Party's (DP) sexual abuse eradication taskforce and a member of its Supreme Council offered a tearful apology for the sexual harassment allegations against the late Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon on Monday, and suggested the party establish a new call center protecting victims of gender-based threats.
Rep. Nam In-soon, a close ally of Park who previously served more than 20 years as a women’s rights activist, offered the apology during a meeting of the DP’s Supreme Council. Nam said she felt “guilty” and “crushed” upon hearing the news about the mayor, and was “heavily repenting” her failure for letting it happen.
Nam is known to be one of the last people Park, a DP member, talked to over the phone on July 9, before he committed suicide later that day. He was found dead on Mount Bukak, near his residence, shortly after midnight on July 10.
Park did not mention his motive to commit suicide in the note that was left behind at his home, but the mayor’s former female secretary filed a complaint with the police on July 8 accusing him of sexually harassing her for more than four years beginning July 2015, prompting speculation that the complaint triggered his fatal decision.
Nam was recently summoned by police for questioning.
The lawmaker is also close to Lim Soon-young, Park’s gender rights adviser who faces allegations of being the first person to have informed Park about his former secretary’s complaint, though Lim denies this. Lim used to work as an adviser for Nam before joining the Seoul Metropolitan Government.
“The world has changed, and so has the public’s viewpoint,” Nam said Monday. “Female voters will no longer want to support the Democratic Party after seeing a string of sexual abuse cases involving DP local government heads.”
Former South Chungcheong Gov. An Hee-jung and Busan Mayor Oh Keo-don, who were forced to step down following their respective sex abuse scandals, were also DP members.
In order to prevent similar cases from recurring, Nam said it was pertinent to empower women in the political workforce, one way being to hire more female aides to lawmakers. Nam suggested the DP improve education for its lawmakers on gender sensitivity and establish a so-called gender-based violence report center.
Nam’s apology came as local women’s rights groups have been castigating the DP and Moon Jae-in administration for failing to protect Park’s former female secretary before and after the mayor’s suicide.
Seoul police investigating Park’s death said Monday that forensic results of the late mayor’s unlocked iPhone were taking longer than initially expected, and that the process was expected to wrap up late this week.
Police have made clear they aren’t probing the ex-secretary’s sexual harassment complaint because the alleged perpetrator has died, leaving no one to indict. But while the complaint will not be directly reopened, officers last week said they could examine the allegations while investigating a separate probe looking into suspicions that the victim’s colleagues at the Seoul Metropolitan Government turned a blind eye to her ordeal despite her numerous calls for help.
The secretary said last Wednesday through her lawyer that she had told nearly 20 of her colleagues in the Seoul city government about Park’s unsolicited sexual advances, but that no one tried to help her, instead suggesting it was because she was "pretty."
BY LEE SUNG-EUN, KIM MIN-SANG [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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