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(2nd LD) Busan mayor resigns over sexual harassment

All News 15:19 April 23, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with relief center's response in paras 5-6, Democratic Party's response in paras 8, 11-13)

BUSAN, April 23 (Yonhap) -- The mayor of Busan, South Korea's largest port city, on Thursday resigned and apologized for sexual harassment.

"In a short meeting that lasted five minutes, there was unnecessary physical contact with a person. I realized that this could be recognized as an indecent assault, (something) that should not been done," the city's Mayor Oh Keo-don said in a press briefing.

"As a public servant who takes responsibility, I will live my remaining life repenting and taking responsibility for this mistake," the mayor said as he cried. "I'm at fault for everything."

Busan Mayor Oh Keo-don speaks at a press conference held at Busan City Hall on April 23, 2020. (Yonhap)

Oh reportedly touched a female civil servant inappropriately during a recent meeting at his office.

A counseling center for sexual crime victims in Busan said the person reported the case involving "serious molestation" in mid-April. The center asked Oh's aides to verify the details, who acknowledged the case and agreed to meet any demands.

The victim asked Oh to step down by April and address his reason for resignation, the center said, adding that the person didn't want the case to be used politically.

The municipal assembly of Busan said it has received his resignation letter, which has immediately gone into effect according to assembly rules.

Oh, who ran as a candidate for the ruling party, was elected as the mayor of Busan, 453 kilometers southeast of Seoul, in the 2018 gubernatorial elections.

The mayoral post will be temporarily filled by the city's vice mayor for administrative affairs until the by-election scheduled for April 2021.

His political aides are also expected to resign.

The Democratic Party issued an apology, saying they plan to remove him from the party following relevant procedures.

"We deeply apologize to the citizens over Oh resigning midterm due to a disgraceful case," Rep. Yun Ho-jung, the party's secretary-general, said. "We feel sorry to the people of Busan for the inevitable vacuum in Busan's city affairs."

Yun said the party will "take all possible measures to lessen the victim's pain" and review preventive measures against such cases.

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