Preaching but not practicingRep. Kim Jong-cheol, head of the minor opposition Justice Party, has resigned after taking responsibility for committing sexual assault against Rep. Jang Hye-young, deputy floor leader of the progressive party. Kim admitted his misbehavior, and the opposition party has started a procedure to punish him according to party rules. Given the party’s history of its persistent championing of human rights and eradication of sexual violence, we are embarrassed to see such shocking developments.
More embarrassing is that such an incident took place ahead of the April 7 mayoral by-elections in Seoul and Busan, which will be held after both of their mayors were implicated in sexual misconduct allegations. Both mayors were members of the ruling Democratic Party (DP). We wonder how such things could happen to a political party that takes great pride in representing socially vulnerable groups in society such as workers, women and migrant workers and championing their rights. How can people trust our politicians and political groups from now on?
Kim apologized for the “sexual violence he wielded on the victim without her consent.” The party has announced it affirmed its chief’s sexual misconduct after a fact-finding investigation. Fortunately, no attempt to cover up or minimize his inappropriate action has been observed. Otherwise, the case could lead to the collapse of the progressive party in Korea. The Justice Party must do some deep soul-searching to find its genuine raison d’être before it’s too late.
The case has big repercussions on our society because another liberal politician followed in the footsteps of former South Chungcheong Gov. Ahn Hee-jung, Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon and Busan Mayor Oh Keo-don. Our politicians have repeatedly disappointed voters. The conservative camp is not immune to such scandals, either.
In a statement released Monday, Rep. Jang, the victim in the Justice Party case, seriously questioned why so many men fail to treat women as equals. Liberal politicians have been championing human rights, social equity and justice. And yet, they are still paternalistic and authoritarian in their attitude toward the opposite sex. They don’t know how to respect others, particularly women.
The deadly gap leads to disaster. Excuses offered by some in the progressive camp may have played a part in encouraging sexual violence by politicians, as seen in the liberal camp’s embrace of former Seoul Mayor Park even after his suicide and its attacks on his victim. If the Justice Party cannot learn lessons from Park’s suicide, there is no reason for it to exist.