Not terribly contriteThe April 7 mayoral by-elections in Seoul and Busan are being held because of sexual misconduct by the late Seoul mayor Park Won-soon and former Busan mayor Oh Geo-don, both members of the ruling Democratic Party (DP). But the DP changed its party constitution that “forbids the party from nominating candidates in by-elections when they committed grave wrongdoing” and allowed candidates to run in the by-elections followed by an apology to the victims of sexual offense. The way the DP behaves makes us doubt the sincerity of its apology. Even the progressive Justice Party, once an ally of the DP, wondered if inflicting secondary damage on the victims is really part of the ruling party’s strategy for elections.
In Busan, the first trial of former mayor Oh’s case was supposed to be held on Tuesday. But the trial was postponed until after the mayoral by-election next month at the request of a defense lawyer. Women’s rights groups have criticized the delay of the trial for apparently “aiming to proceed with a politically-engineered trial centered on the defendant.” In other words, the DP fears the impact of the trial on the by-election in Busan. That sounds reasonable. The delay of the trial was requested by law firm Busan, which was set up by President Moon Jae-in before he entered politics.
Jung Jae-sung, a chief lawyer of the law firm, defended former Busan mayor Oh and served as co-chairman of the campaign for the DP’s Busan mayoral candidate Kim Young-choon. After Oh’s victim, a secretary, complained about Jung’s role on his legal team, Jung resigned from the chairmanship of the campaign. Around that time in Seoul, three female DP lawmakers who worked as aides to Park Young-sun, the DP’s Seoul mayoral candidate, also resigned after controversy arose over their past remarks.
We wonder if the Busan mayoral candidate really didn’t know that if he hired Jung, the chief lawyer of the law firm in Busan, as co-chairman of his campaign, it could be seen as a denial of the mayor’s sexual misconduct. The plaintiff in the case asked Jung if he really wanted to defend mayor Oh’s wrongdoing.
In Seoul, President Moon’s former Chief of Staff Im Jong-seok made remarks suggestive of his support for former Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon. On Tuesday, he wrote on Facebook, “Was Park such a degraded person? When it comes to dignity, he was the cleanest civil servant I’ve ever known.” Im went on to write the following day, “I humbly want to carve his name on a bench somewhere in the woods of Yongsan Park.” On Thursday, Lee Nak-yon, former chairman of the DP, reiterated his apology for sexual misconduct. But some things never change.