The DP has a sexualharassment problemAnother influential figure in the Democratic Party (DP) has been embroiled in a sexual misconduct controversy. The party expelled three-term lawmaker Park Wan-ju, who served as floor leader and chief policymaker, upon learning about his advances toward a female aide. The DP is already stained with the sexual harassment scandals of former Busan Mayor Oh Keo-don and Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon. DP-aligned local government, city and country heads and councilmen report sex scandals or misconducts almost every two months. We wonder whether the DP became a breeding ground of sexual misconduct as the majority party got infatuated with its 168 seats in the legislature.
Every time a new scandal breaks out, the party has tried to cover it up. The act itself is bad, but slack responses have come to generate a vicious cycle. The expulsion has taken place six months after the misconduct was reported late last year. The party is suspected of trying to cover up the case upon receiving the victim’s complaint. Simply expelling Park cannot be enough. He should be stripped of his legislative seat and face criminal liability after an investigation. The party must also make sure the victim does not face any backlash.
Just before the latest incident, Rep. Choi Kwang-wook provoked an outcry by making a sexually offensive comment in the presence of a female aide during an online meeting. He first denied any ill intention and later apologized. A former secretary of Rep. Kim Won-i who had sexually assaulted a former female colleague is accused of having committed secondary harm to the victim. The party’s council of aides to lawmakers received a series of complaints about sexually-offensive comments by lawmakers after Choi’s controversial action. There was one complaint that is said to be worse than Park’s misconduct. The DP must investigate the complaints filed with the council for aides and share the results with the public to root out this rotten legacy.
The DP has repeatedly promised to start a gender violence report center and other strong measures. But its action hardly meet its words. The DP changed it articles to enable the party to field candidates for by-elections of Seoul and Busan mayors although the positions were lost by misconduct by party members. It referred to the victims as “complainants,” which was hardly respectful. Its stubborn self-righteousness and distorted sexual awareness have bred complacency and lenience to sexual offenses. Yet the party vows to represent young women.
The DP faces a serious test before the June 1 local elections. It could face a harsh public judgment at the ballot box if it does not act strongly to correct its shameful legacy.