NATIONAL

Fired presidential spokesperson denies sexual harassment allegations

By 송상호
  • Published : May 11, 2013 - 10:56
  • Updated : May 12, 2013 - 09:50


The former presidential spokesman, who was fired after becoming embroiled in a sex scandal while accompanying President Park Geun-hye on her first trip to the U.S., denied allegations Saturday of having sexually assaulted a young
American woman who worked for him during the visit.
   
Yoon Chang-jung, who accompanied Park to Washington for her first summit with U.S. President Barack Obama, hastily left for South Korea Wednesday as police were investigating allegations that he sexually assaulted a 21-year-old Korean-American who was temporarily hired by the U.S. embassy for the meeting.


Former presidential spokesperson Yoon Chang-jung bows during a press conference over allegations of sexual harassment in Seoul on Saturday. (Yonhap News)

"I apologize for causing concern to President Park and the people, and for causing harm to the accomplishments of the successful U.S. visit," Yoon said in a press briefing held in a Seoul restaurant packed with reporters. "But I didn't have any intention of sexual harassing her."
   
A police repot obtained by Yonhap News states that the young woman told U.S. police that Yoon "grabbed her buttocks without her permission" Tuesday night at a hotel in Washington D.C. near the White House.
   
"I think there was a misunderstanding between us because of cultural differences," the 56-year-old former journalist said, noting that he only touched her waist and gave her words of encouragement. "If I have hurt her, I ask for her understanding and offer an apology."
  
Yoon, who was unable to be reached after returning to Seoul, denied allegations raised by some reports that said he called the woman to his hotel room and used abusive language with her.    

Yoon said he harshly criticized the embassy employee on several occasions as she was not fulfilling the duties of her position as a guide, causing delays to his schedule and inconveniencing him.   

Yoon said he later offered her a drink to make her feel better, and they drank at the hotel bar with his driver for 30 minutes. The mood was amicable, he said.
   
"She sat on the opposite side of the long table, and my driver sat to my right side. How could I have sexually harassed her?" he said.
   
Before departing, Yoon claimed he patted her waist and told her to perform her job better and to lead a successful life in the U.S., but he was not aware that his actions could be misunderstood in American culture.
    
Refuting reports that he fled Washington in the middle of night to evade police investigation, Yoon said that he insisted on completing the official schedule but senior presidential press secretary Lee Nam-ki advised him to leave the country.     

His explanation contradicts Lee's remark from Friday night's briefing that Yoon voluntarily decided to leave Washington after hearing that the investigation can be conducted by South Korean police due to a justice cooperative agreement between the two countries.
   
"I only told the truth and I am willing to receive legal punishment," Yoon said.
   
Lee flately refuted Yoon's claim.  

"Though I don't remember the situation one hundred percent but I didn't advise him to leave the country," he said, adding that he will take responsibility if he did anything wrong in handling the incident.   

The ruling Saenuri Party criticized Yoon, saying he was making excuses and called for a thorough investigation to get the bottomof the case.
   
"The press briefing in which (Yoon) made personal excuses and denied responsibility was very disappointing," party spokeswoman Min Hyun-joo said in a statement. "His briefing only brought more suspicions, rather than clearing up them."
   
The main opposition Democratic Party (DP) said Yoon's claim that the senior presidential press secretary told him to leave Washington was "shocking" as it reveals that the top office helped the ex-spokesman evade investigation by U.S. authorities.
   
"If Yoon's claim turns out to be true, it is not just a matter of an unqualified senior government official's personal misconduct. We have no option but to raise serious questions over the government," DP spokesman Park Yong-jin said in a briefing at the National Assembly.
   
The former journalist and political columnist Yoon served as spokesman for Park's transition team before his appointment. Critics said he was unfit for the job because his columns were sensational, biased, and extremely right-leaning.
   
Yoon's sacking is expected to deal a serious blow to Park, who has been criticized for selecting under qualified and unethical people for senior government posts. At least a half dozen people nominated for minister and vice minister positions withdrew after questions arose, mostly about their ethical standards, in the wake of allegations of real estate speculation, tax evasion and other issues. (Yonhap News)