Shame on Rep. NamRep. Nam In-soon, a three-term lawmaker from the ruling Democratic Party (DP), is a pioneer of women’s rights in Korea. She had been using the name “Nam-Yoon In-soon” for 18 years to show her maternal roots until a revised law in 2015 mandated the use of only paternal surnames before people’s given names. Partly thanks to her dedicated service as the director general and later CEO of the Korea Women’s Associations United (KWAU), women’s rights improved in this country.
As a politician, however, she has betrayed the public trust. As chairperson of a committee on gender equality and violence in the DP, she is responsible for secondary violence against a victim of sexual assault by the late Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon. In a Kakao chatroom of female lawmakers from the DP in July, there was a discussion about how to refer to the victim, a secretary to the mayor. Nam urged her colleagues to call the victim an “alleged victim” and her proposal was accepted.
After the DP’s use of the term “alleged victim” backfired, the DP began calling her a “victim.” After Rep. Nam was suspected of having leaked the victim’s complaint to the police in advance, she denied it. But as the prosecution’s investigation showed, she lied. After keeping mum over the past week, she claimed she had not been aware of the accusation nor leaked the information to the mayor.
Her statement is not entirely wrong, as she informed the mayor of the victim’s complaint before he was accused of sexual harassment. Therefore, what Nam leaked to the mayor can hardly constitute an accusation. But the lawmaker’s claim is really just a poor excuse. Even the progressive Justice Party has joined the criticism of Nam.
The way she has been dealing with the case makes us doubt the sincerity of her past career as an activist for women’s rights. Her siding with the liberal mayor and blaming of the victim is shocking enough. It’s even sadder that she tries to mislead the public with nonsensical remarks. We wonder if the tears she dropped last year while explaining the case were really a crocodile’s.
As a lawmaker in 2013, she proposed a bill aimed at protecting human rights of sexual victims. At the time, she still used the name Nam-Yoon In-soon to demonstrate her identity as a champion of women’s rights. Has she changed after changing her name back to Nam In-soon? Whatever the case, the lawmaker — the godmother of women’s rights in Korea — has shaken the foundations of the women’s rights movement in Korea.
She must start telling the truth. Otherwise, she will follow in the footsteps of Rep. Yoon Mee-hyang, who left the DP after being accused of exploiting the former comfort women she championed.