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(4th LD) Park sacks spokesman Yoon amid sexual assault allegations

All Headlines 07:04 May 10, 2013

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with report by Washington police; CHANGES headline)
By Lee Chi-dong

LOS ANGELES/ WASHINGTON, May 9 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Park Geun-hye has fired her spokesman, Yoon Chang-jung, for involvement in an unspecified "unsavory" act, her office announced Thursday, as Washington, D.C., police investigated allegations that Yoon sexually assaulted a young woman earlier this week.

"We are investigating the report of a Misdemeanor Sexual Abuse. We cannot comment further, at this time," Gwendolyn Crump, director of the Office of Communications at the Metropolitan Police Department, told Yonhap News Agency by email.

She was reponding to an inquiry over whether the department has received any report of a sexual assault involving a "South Korean official" with the name of "Yoon Chang-jung."

A formal two-page police report she later emailed to Yonhap did not have the name, only describing a suspect as a 56-year-old male.

The report said the suspect "grabbed her buttocks without her permission" at a Washington hotel. The event happened between 9:30 and 10 p.m. Tuesday, it added.

Earlier in the day, South Korea's senior presidential press secretary, Lee Nam-ki, announced Yoon's sacking, saying he was "personally involved in an unsavory incident" that "hurt the national dignity."

Lee did not elaborate, saying only that South Korea's Embassy in Washington is trying to determine the circumstances. Lee said the government will make public its findings.

The dismissal of the presidential official came as a surprise, especially as Park was in the middle of her trip to the United States. She flew to Los Angeles Wednesday after a three-day stay in Washington, where she had summit talks with President Barack Obama.

Yoon returned to Seoul from Washington on Wednesday without accompanying Park to Los Angeles, the third and final stop of her five-day visit to the U.S. That sparked speculation as to what forced him to cut the trip short.

Rumors have been rampant that Yoon might have sexually harassed a Korean woman, in her early 20s, who was temporarily hired by the embassy to assist with duties related to the president's visit. South Korean embassy officials in Washington have kept mum on the issue.

Yoon, a former journalist and political columnist, served as spokesman for Park's transition team before his appointment. Critics said he was unfit for the job because his columns were sensational and biased.

Yoon's sacking is expected to deal a serious blow to Park, who has been criticized for picking the wrong people for senior government posts. At least a half dozen people nominated as ministers and vice ministers withdrew after questions arose, mostly about their ethical standards in the wake of allegations of real estate speculation, tax evasion and other issues.



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