Last year, the number of formal disciplinary actions taken against civil servants stood at 12, and half of them were due to sex-related misconduct such as sexual harassment and sexual violence, according to Foreign Ministry data disclosed at the request of Rep. Lee Seok-hyun of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea.
In one of the cases, a working-level civil servant at the ministry was demoted after being caught secretly filming women on 16 occasions at places such as a coffeehouse, the report showed.
A former South Korean ambassador to Ethiopia, Kim Moon-hwan, was expelled from office after being found guilty of sexual abuse against three female staff members at the South Korean Embassy in Ethiopia from 2014 to 2017. He was sentenced to one year of prison and 40 hours of sexual violence education sessions.
The number of disciplinary actions against public servants at the ministry was five in 2014, seven in 2015, 17 in 2016 and 12 last year. The number stood at 11 by August this year.
“Misconduct involving Foreign Ministry officials not only shocks the public but also damages the image of our country overseas,” Lee said, calling for strict action to prevent recurrences of such problems.
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha on Thursday vowed to enhance related education for Foreign Ministry officials for a fundamental change.
“As seen in the #MeToo movement, sexual misconduct by men against women is not only a systemic problem, but also a cultural problem. We understand that putting a system in place cannot root out (such sexual misconduct), so we have dealt with such cases based on a principle of zero tolerance from the beginning,” Kang said at a press conference.
“Due to the system in place, I believe those who committed such misconduct have been caught, investigated rapidly and received due punishment in accordance with the gravity of the cases,” she said.