NATIONAL

Former justice minister implicated in Jang Ja-yeon sexual abuse case: investigators

By Jo He-rim
  • Published : Dec 4, 2018 - 18:23
  • Updated : Dec 4, 2018 - 18:23

A former justice minister and a head of South Korea’s leading liquor maker are implicated in the sexual abuse case centering on late actress Jang Ja-yeon, investigators said Tuesday.

The special investigation team that reopened the case revealed that the rookie actress met with Park Moon-deok, the head of liquor maker Hite Jinro, as well as Koreana Hotel CEO Bang Yong-hoon and former Justice Minister Kwon Jae-jin, at a dinner in 2008.

Kwon, who was a senior prosecutor at the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office at the time, reportedly joined the group upon Park’s invitation. 

Jang Ja-yeon (Yonhap)

The investigators said they were trying to determine why Kwon was at the dinner and whether he wielded his judicial authority to intervene in the initial investigation of Jang’s case, which concluded amid criticism because none of the high-ranking suspects were ever punished.

Kwon served as chief of the Seoul High Prosecutors’ Office and as senior presidential secretary for civil affairs under former President Lee Myung-bak before serving as justice minister from 2011 to 2013.

Jang, 29 at the time, was a rookie actress starring in the popular KBS drama series “Boys Over Flowers.” In 2009 she took her own life, leaving behind handwritten notes accusing her agency of sexually exploiting her. In the notes, she said she was forced to have sex with some 30 powerful figures, including high-ranking public servants, journalists and TV drama producers.

When the prosecution in 2009 only charged Jang’s agency chief and manager, without detention, multiple witnesses and media reports suggested that outside pressures had swayed the investigation.

After a nine-year dispute, in late May a special independent panel at the Ministry of Justice looking into past rulings recommended the launch of a special investigation to reopen the case.

On Monday, an actress identified by the surname Yoon testified at the trial of one of the alleged abusers, surnamed Cho. Yoon testified that she had witnessed Jang being sexually abused by the former Chosun Ilbo journalist in August 2008.

The investigation team has revealed that one of the senior prosecutors who took part in the initial investigation in 2009 was asked to provide special treatment for Cho, because Cho’s wife was a prosecutor.

In a separate statement, Yoon called for severe punishment for the abusers.

“Nine years have passed since the incident. I still remember clearly what happened on that day,” Yoon said. “As a rookie actress, it was the first time for me to see what ‘serving drinks’ meant. It was my first time seeing Cho, and my first time seeing Jang being sexually abused.”

Explaining how she had to give up her career and move overseas in fear after the incident, Yoon said the abusers still do not realize their wrongdoing.

“But abusers exist. It is time for them to get the punishment for their wrongdoing,” Yoon said.

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)