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Complaint against late Seoul mayor possibly leaked, with no one claiming responsibility

All News 12:08 July 14, 2020

SEOUL, July 14 (Yonhap) -- Questions are mounting if late Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon was tipped off about a sexual harassment complaint against him before apparently taking his own life Thursday.

While circumstantial evidence indicates that he might have known about the complaint, it remains unknown who leaked the information as all the involved agencies have strongly denied the suspicion.

Police claimed it briefed the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae on the case but didn't tell Park about it, while the presidential office denied having passed the information to the mayor. The Seoul metropolitan government said it hadn't been aware of the complaint at all.

The complaint was filed at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday by Park's former secretary at the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency. She was under a police probe until 2:30 a.m. Thursday, according to her lawyer. On Thursday morning, Park abruptly canceled his schedule for the day and went missing until he was found dead early Friday morning.

A funeral procession for late Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon makes a stopover at his birthplace in Changnyeong, 347 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on July 13, 2020, before heading to the burial ground. (Yonhap)

During a press conference Monday, civic group officials who are helping the former secretary openly raised questions on how the case was reported to Park immediately after the complaint was filed.

"Under such circumstances, who can trust the country's system and report cases of workplace sexual abuse involving a gap in power?" asked Lee Mi-kyung, head of the Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center.

Joo Ho-young, the floor leader of the main opposition United Future Party (UFP), also suspected that Park was informed of the case either by the presidential office or the police.

"If that is true, it amounts to a violation of criminal laws," he said.

But government agencies involved in the case all denied the information leakage allegation.

"The police have no direct contact with the Seoul city government, so the suspicion is groundless," an official from the police station said. "There are sometimes cases in which we inform a heavyweight of an upcoming summons following a sufficient investigation."

Presidential spokesman Kang Min-seok also strongly denied the allegation in a text message to reporters.

"We were told on Wednesday night that a complaint was filed against the mayor, but we did not notify him of the case," a Cheong Wa Dae official, who asked not to be named, told Yonhap News Agency in a phone interview.

Kim Jae-ryun, the lawyer for the former secretary, said she first consulted her client on May 12 and begun reviewing a potential legal complaint against Park on May 27. Given a nearly two-month period, there is a possibility that the information could have reached Park through other outlets.

Kim said her client had requested a transfer to another post following the alleged abuse, and shared photos and texts from Park with her friends and colleagues.

"The victim asked for help inside the city government but only heard that 'The mayor was not that kind of a man,'" Lee from the relief center claimed.

The Seoul metropolitan government has maintained that it learned about the complaint from news reports only after Park went missing Thursday.

Park's close aides could not be reached for comments.

Although a criminal investigation into the sexual abuse case cannot be opened since the defendant died, a separate probe into the potential leakage case can be launched.

Lee Mi-kyung, head of the Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center, speaks during a news conference at the office of a civic group in Seoul on July 13, 2020, to reveal details of allegations that late Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon sexually abused his former secretary. (Yonhap)


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