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[Newsmaker] SPO chief hit by abuse allegations

Whenever the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra was in the news, it was usually artistic director Chung Myung-whun who got the spotlight.

In the past few days, however, Park Hyun-jung, the orchestra’s president and CEO since February 2013, landed prominently in newspapers and on TV. 
Park Hyun-jung, the orchestra’s president and CEO. (Yonhap)
Park Hyun-jung, the orchestra’s president and CEO. (Yonhap)

She is accused of a series of cases of misconduct, including verbal and sexual abuse, by her own staff at the city-run ensemble. Seventeen of the orchestra’s 27 staff members are demanding her immediate resignation.

On Wednesday, two days after the scandal broke, Park made her first official public appearance and categorically denied any wrongdoings.

“Let them investigate. I have no intention of evading any probe or audit,” the 52-year-old told journalists, who surrounded her in the lobby of the Seoul Metropolitan Council building. She was there to attend a meeting on the city’s budget for next year.

“Once I have (the legal and other issues) sorted out, I will hold a press conference and will tell everything,” she said, adding that legal action would follow to hold accountable those who defamed her.

A press conference will be held on Friday morning, she informed journalists later in the day.

The row in the SPO, which has pitted the executive against her own ranks, looks set to evolve into a bigger scandal embroiling maestro Chung and Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon.

In text messages sent to a TV station, the beleaguered Park claimed that Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon had pressured her to resign after Chung told him about the complaints from her employees.

The Seoul Metropolitan Council has asked for both Park and Chung to visit the municipal assembly on Dec. 10, regarding the situation.

Park began her three-year tenure as the CEO of the country’s most beloved orchestra in February last year.

Although her appointment raised some eyebrows due to her apparent lack of experience in arts management, few questioned her leadership.

After receiving a Ph.D. in sociology from Harvard University, Park had a successful career with Samsung Life Insurance, a unit of Samsung Group. As one of the handful of women to reach the executive level at Samsung, she even led the privately run Women’s Leadership Research Institute for over a year before joining the SPO.

The accusations against her ― whether or not they turn out to true ― appear to be blatant evidence of her failure to lead.

The 17 employees who have turned their backs on her claim that the CEO treated them “inhumanely,” and 13 others have left the organization. They provided an audio recording purportedly of her yelling and cursing at employees, which was broadcast on major TV channels.

They claim that Park verbally harassed female employees on numerous occasions and physically assaulted a male staff member of another organization on one occasion last year. She is alleged to have violated internal rules by hiring children of her acquaintances.

By Lee Sun-young (
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Korea Herald daum