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[Editorial] Unending sex scandals

Democratic Party to expel influential lawmaker for sex crime against aide

A sex scandal hit the Democratic Party of Korea again. The party decided Thursday to expel Rep. Park Wan-joo for his “sexual illegality” against his female aide.

Park is a three-term lawmaker who once held key posts in the party -- chief policymaker, first vice floor leader and a member of the Supreme Council.

The party said it would not disclose details of the incident to prevent secondary victimization, but considering that it called an emergency meeting to expel Park and requested the National Assembly take disciplinary action against him, the incident must be serious. He is said to have instructed the fabrication of his victim’s resignation and submission of it to the National Assembly.

The lawmaker’s sexual misconduct itself is a problem, but the party’s handling of the incident is yet more problematic.

The incident is said to have taken place in December last year when the presidential race was heating up, but was not disclosed to the public for five months. It is questionable if the party hid it intentionally until after the presidential election.

In a separate case, former Busan Mayor Oh Keo-don, who belonged to the party, sexually assaulted a female city employee before the 2020 general election. The party concealed the case until after the election.

These incidents have something to do with the morality of the party, and voters need to know them before casting ballots.

For the past few years, the party has been mired in a series of sex scandals implicating high-profile members. Former South Chungcheong Gov. Ahn Hee-jung and former Busan Mayor Oh were jailed for sex crimes against their female employees. Former Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon took his own life soon after the victim came forward. Then an influential lawmaker was found to have committed sex crimes against his female aide.

In January, a former aide to Kim Won-i, a Democratic Party lawmaker, was accused of sexually assaulting his female colleague. In June 2021, a former head of a regional committee of the party groped a restaurant employee.

Recently, Choe Kang-wook, a Democratic Party lawmaker, caused controversy by making sexual remarks to his fellow lawmaker of the party during an online video conference that female aides also attended. With criticisms mounting, he invented a somewhat flimsy excuse, arguing that they had misheard his remarks.

A council of aides to Democratic Party lawmakers said in a statement that after Choe’s controversial remarks, it received many reports on similar remarks by lawmakers, some of them too shameful to disclose to the public. The council is said to have gotten tip-offs about sexual misconduct cases that look more serious than the Park Wan-joo incident.

The party should thoroughly investigate all sexual misconduct allegations received by the council.

The Democratic Party has taken pride in championing the cause of women’s rights and gained many votes from women. But it hid its true colors. It often ignored women’s rights when figures on its side were involved in sexual misconduct. Sometimes, even women lawmakers of the party contributed to secondary victimization.

The party defended former Seoul Mayor Park, calling him “a person of clear character,” after he committed suicide. The then President Moon Jae-in kept silent to the end. Democratic Party lawmakers insulted Park’s victim by calling her “a complainant of being victimized.”

Secondary victimization also occurred in the case of former South Chungcheong Gov. Ahn.

In order to put up its candidates in the Seoul and Busan mayoral by-elections to seek replacements for Park and Oh, the party even changed its constitution that banned candidate nomination for by-elections caused by its members’ grave faults.

A day after deciding to expel Park, the party leadership made no mention of the allegations against him. There was no apology, either. Park kept silent.

How can sex crimes stop in a party that does not reflect sincerely on such cases? Its organizational culture will hardly change if the people do not teach the party a good lesson in the June 1 local elections.

By Korea Herald (khnews@heraldcorp.com)
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