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[Editorial] Suspicion of leak

Late Seoul mayor is suspected of having known of accusation before death

Did the late Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon know before he died by apparent suicide that he had been accused of sexual harassment? If so, who told him?

These are important questions in connection with suspicions surrounding his death.

The leaking of information about accusations or investigations to an accused person is a serious illegal act when it concerns sexual crimes. It is as good as complicity with the accused sex abuser.

In a press conference Monday afternoon after Park’s funeral, Lee Mi-kyoung, director of the Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center, argued that “the investigation situation became known to the accused through a certain channel almost simultaneously with the filing of the accusation.”

“We saw a person with a high status such as the Seoul mayor be given a chance to destroy evidence before investigations start in earnest,” she said. “Who in this situation can trust the state system and file an accusation of sexual violation by an attacker with power?”

Kim Jae-ryon, a lawyer representing the victim, said she had requested that the investigative team maintain confidentiality about the fact that the victim made the accusation.

The victim, a former secretary to Park, accompanied by her lawyer, filed a complaint at around 4:30 p.m. on July 8, a day before Park took his own life, and police began to interview her immediately after the filing. The interview lasted until around 2:30 a.m. on July 9.

Considering that Park canceled his entire schedule for the day at 10:44 a.m. on July 9 and left the official residence, he seems to have known of the accusation beforehand. If the information about the filing of the accusation followed shortly by the overnight interview had not been leaked to Park, how would the mayor have taken his tragic choice?

Police said they “reported to the presidential office only the fact that they had received a complaint against the Seoul mayor.”

It is hard to believe this at face value. It is very likely that police reported the content of the complaint and the interview as well as the simple fact that the accusation had been filed.

Like the police, Cheong Wa Dae argues it did not let Park know anything about the complaint.

But if Park did know that he had been accused, the source of information seems most likely to be either the police or Cheong Wa Dae.

Park had a mobile phone when he was found dead. For now, police have ruled out foul play. His cellphone is expected to be an important piece of evidence to grasp the details that led to his death, including calls or text messages related to the accusation.

The police dawdled, however. They found Park’s body at 12:01 a.m. on July 10, but began phone forensics five days later on July 15. Though they know all they have to do to start forensics is notify the bereaved family, they came out with nonsense: that they would consult Park’s family about the forensics after a memorial ritual on the third day after the funeral. They said it could take months to get the results because of the passcode lock. If they deal with the investigation passively, calls for a special counsel and a special investigative unit will gain momentum.

If someone leaked to Park that he had been accused of sexual harassment, this is a grave matter. It is a leak of official secrets, obstruction of an investigation and abuse of judicial procedures. The identity of a sex crime victim is kept secret to prevent the attacker from destroying evidence and appeasing or threatening the victim.

The impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye stemmed from the leaking of official secrets. Investigations began with revelations that what Park would say in Cabinet meetings had been leaked to her confidant Choi Sun-sil beforehand.

If the state affairs monitoring office of Cheong Wa Dae received a report from police that Park had been accused, it is very likely the office would have reported the serious matter to President Moon Jae-in immediately.

But Moon has not said a word about this issue. If he received a report that Park had been accused, what he said must be known to some. Suspicions of a leak must be investigated thoroughly, and the leaker should be strictly punished.
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