Korean official at L.A. consulate recalled amid sexual harassment allegations

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Korean official at L.A. consulate recalled amid sexual harassment allegations

A senior intelligence official was recalled from the Korean Consulate General in Los Angeles after accusations that he sexually harassed a female employee at the diplomatic mission earlier this year, an opposition lawmaker said Wednesday.  
 
The National Intelligence Service (NIS) official was accused of sexually harassing the woman, a contracted staff member at the consulate, in late June, according to Rep. Kim Gi-hyeon, a lawmaker from the main opposition People Power Party (PPP) and a member of the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs Committee.
 
The incident took place within the premises of the consulate, after dinner on June 23, but Kim did not release specific details of what the official allegedly did.
 
The staff member filed a complaint with local police immediately afterwards.
 
The Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it became aware of the incident in mid-July only after being notified by police, and the ministry recalled the NIS official who returned to Korea in late July.  
 
He returned to the NIS, but was subject to no further disciplinary measures, Kim said. The official's rank had been equivalent to a consul general.  
 
The Korean police investigated the case and referred it to the prosecution with a recommendation that the official be indicted on charges of sexual harassment.
 
Over the years, there have been a series of cases involving senior Korean officials accused of sexual harassment or assault at overseas missions.  
 
A senior Korean diplomat posted in Wellington, New Zealand, was accused of groping a local male staff member in late 2017 on three separate occasions, a case that gained substantial public attention only in recent months.  
 
This diplomat left his post in New Zealand in February 2018 after being summoned home by the Korean Foreign Ministry and denied the allegations in an internal investigation by the ministry. The ministry took disciplinary action against him, and he received a one-month pay cut at the time. However, he was recently recalled from his post serving in the Philippines following the controversy, after New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern raised the case with President Moon Jae-in during a phone call in late July.  
 
The Korean Foreign Ministry in turn resumed the mediation process over the case last month.  
 
BY SARAH KIM   [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]
 
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