The National Assembly was recently shaken by a series of sex scandals, most of them involving members of the Grand National Party.
Earlier this month, a major daily newspaper reported that a married ruling party lawmaker sexually harassed a drunken woman in a taxi and handed over money to the driver who threatened to upload the recorded file on the Internet.
The subject of the article was the illicit use of car black boxes installed near rearview mirrors, which can provide useful evidence in traffic accidents. But many readers surely wondered who the lawmaker and the woman were ― the story hid their names.
Then, rumors flew. Word had it that the woman was a female reporter, not a bar hostess as reported, or that she was not sexually molested but had participated consensually. None of the rumors have been confirmed true.
Speculation did not stop there. People engaged in guesswork about the lawmaker.
As one of the daily newspapers described him just as “J,” all male lawmakers of the GNP with surnames beginning with the letter faced suspicion.
“It has been over a month since this taxi rumor came out in Yeoido, but any fact about the attacker has not been disclosed yet. The scandal’s details and speculation about the lawmaker’s name varied depending on who tells the story,” said a ruling party official, who declined to be named. Yeoido in southeastern Seoul is the location of the National Assembly.
“I am not sure even whether the alleged case actually took place or not, but a large part of the incessant rumors seem to be a mix-up of various other scandals.”
The official then insisted that the media should not publish articles quoting mysterious sources.
Earlier this year, another unidentified GNP lawmaker was said to have kissed a female reporter during a private dinner. He allegedly apologized immediately after she got mad at him. Speculation mounted about the identities of the lawmaker and female journalist.
Last month, political circles heard of a sobering scandal. An assistant to a ruling party lawmaker was said to have raped a female secretary, who resigned shortly after the scandal was brought to light. Out of the rumor mill came suggestions that the married assistant denied the charges, claiming they had had an affair.
Facing incessant rumors of sex scandals involving politicians or their aides, the leadership of the National Assembly has rolled up its sleeves, determined to avoid humiliation.
Speaker Park Hee-tae, who recently came back from his visit to the Baltic states, ordered an investigation into the sex scandal rumors and vowed to deal strictly with those who have behaved inappropriately.
It is the first time for the nation’s head of the legislative branch to take up sex scandal rumors as a serious issue.
Rep. Kang Yong-seok was expelled from the GNP last year for his remarks about female television newscasters during a dinner with university students.
“Female anchors should be ready to give everything. Do you think you could do that?” Kang reportedly told a female student who aspired to become a newscaster. He denied sexual harassment charges, but the court rejected his defense.
A parliamentary ethics panel agreed to kick him out of the National Assembly, but its agreement to forfeit his seat failed to enter the general meeting of lawmakers on June 30, the last day of the latest one-month extra session.
The ruling party had offered not to vote on the case, and opposition parties accepted the offer, as both sides feared they could not meet the quorum to pass the expulsion proposal. According to news media, the rival parties wanted to shun possible criticism in case of failure to expel the lawmaker as the public, especially females, wanted.
By Bae Hyun-jung (firstname.lastname@example.org)