Back To Top

[Newsmaker] Calls grow for investigation into Seoul mayor’s harassment allegations


The controversy over the #MeToo allegations against late Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon is showing no signs of abating, with calls for an investigation growing Tuesday.

Opposition parties, women’s groups and the alleged victim called for a full investigation into Park’s alleged harassment of his secretary, although a criminal case is usually dropped when a suspect dies.

The main opposition United Future Party said Tuesday that it would request a parliamentary hearing in to the case, raising suspicions that the city government may have tried to conceal Park’s wrongdoings.

“If we find the fact-finding from the hearing to be insufficient, we will decide whether to seek a parliamentary inquiry or an independent counsel investigation,” said Rep. Joo Ho-young, the party’s floor leader.

Park died Friday in an apparent suicide two days after the woman filed a criminal complaint with the police. Hours after his funeral service Monday, the former secretary and current city government official claimed that the mayor made unwanted physical contact and sent inappropriate text messages for four years starting in 2017.

Having been considered a potential 2020 presidential candidate for the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, Park was serving his third term as mayor when he was found dead in the early hours of Friday.

The victim has become the target of a witch hunt with people attempting to single her out and detect her personal information. Police opened an investigation after she filed an additional complaint on the “secondary damages” that have been inflicted.

The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family warned against activities that distress the victim such as slander and circulating speculations online.

Following Democratic Party Chairman Lee Hae-chan’s official apology to the alleged victim after the press conference on Monday, Rep. Park Yong-jin and Rep. Kwak Sang-do urged the party’s active and swift inquiry to punish the people responsible for the misconduct.

“We should check whether the party lacked gender sensitivity and gender equality education for elected officials and measures should be taken to become a women-friendly party,” Rep. Park said in an interview with a KBS radio station.

Sexual assault accusations against bigwig politicians belonging to the Democratic Party have shocked the nation. Oh Keo-don, the mayor of Busan, was accused in April and former South Chungcheong Province Gov. Ahn Hee-jung in March last year. Both accusers worked with the accused in government offices during their tenure.

Rep. Kwak Sang-do, chairman of the party’s internal group set up to investigate sex crimes, pledged to get to the bottom of all #MeToo cases involving party members.

“I will vigorously clarify the truth about #MeToo cases involving party members so that they can receive severe punishment,” he said.

Meanwhile, police decided Tuesday to check Park’s mobile phone history to find out what may have led the former mayor to take his life.

The Seoul Seongbuk Police Station still has his phone, which was found with his body in a wooded area of Seoul.

Police said the investigation into Park’s phone records will be limited to the inquest into his death.

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea, an independent governmental body, began to look into the case Tuesday following a petition lodged July 10 by a civic group to investigate possible rights violations that Park’s secretary may have faced. The petition can be turned down if the alleged victim rejects the body’s investigation.

By Park Han-na (