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[Editorial] Cacophony at SPO

City’s no-tolerance for harassment should apply

A group of Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra employees issued a statement Tuesday calling for the dismissal of Park Hyun-jung, SPO president and CEO, and an investigation into the organization’s personnel mismanagement.

Park sexually harassed her female employees on numerous occasions as well as sexually harassing a male staff from another organization, according to the statement. The specific incidents of sexual harassment and verbal abuse cited in the statement are embarrassing to read.

Thirteen staff members, nearly half of the 27 employees, have left the organization since Park came into office in February 2013. Many left because they could not endure Park’s abuses ― her alleged harassments and abuses are tantamount to human rights abuses.

There were irregularities in personnel management as well, the statement claims. From 2013 to 2014, a total of 10 employment notices were made, compared to five announcements made from 2009 to 2013. Many of the new hires were children or students of Park’s acquaintances. Internal regulations were amended to allow promotion of specific staff, the statement claims.

The statement also alleges that Park made false statements during the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s audit of the SPO, when the issue of SPO artistic director Chung Myung-whun’s activities outside the orchestra was raised. While Park told the auditor that she became aware of Chung’s piano recitals through a newspaper report, the statement alleges that Park and Chung had discussed the issue several times and that Park had approved the activities.

Park was appointed to the post with the expectation that her success at Samsung Life Insurance, where she served as the executive director of marketing and strategy, would translate into successful fundraising for the SPO ― so much so that her lack of experience in the classical music industry was overlooked.

If the claims made in the statement by the SPO staff are true, Park has failed the organization. Her office, which should support the musicians so they can focus on making music, created so much discord within the organization that the musicians were surely affected as well.

The Board of Audit and Inspection has launched an investigation and the Seoul Metropolitan Government said that it would conduct its own fact finding. Seoul City, in September, issued zero tolerance for sexual harassment and verbal abuse by civil servants. While Park is technically not a civil servant, the same zero tolerance should apply to the SPO, which receives funding from the city.
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