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(LEAD) City to open probe into allegations of sexual misconduct by late Seoul mayor

Politics 12:05 July 15, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with details from press conference, photo)
By Lee Minji

SEOUL, July 15 (Yonhap) -- The Seoul metropolitan government on Wednesday announced a plan to launch a probe into allegations of sexual abuse by the city's late mayor raised by his former secretary.

Park Won-soon, the city's three-term mayor, was found dead in the hills of a Seoul mountain in the early hours of Friday after hundreds of police and rescue officials searched for him following a missing person report. A handwritten note, saying "sorry," was later found in Park's study.

His abrupt death came a day after a former secretary filled a complaint with the police. On Monday, civic groups and her attorney held a press conference where they claimed the public servant suffered unwanted physical contact and received inappropriate messages from Park for over four years.

This July 13, 2020, photo shows a portrait of late Seoul mayor Park Won-soon that was carried during his funeral in Seoul. (Yonhap)

The city said it will establish a joint investigative team involving women rights and human rights groups, along with legal experts, for the case "to guarantee fairness and objectivity."

"Seoul city will strive to strictly get down to the truth through a joint investigative committee involving external experts, such as womens rights groups, human rights experts and legal experts. By forming and running the joint committee, (the city) will guarantee the fairness and objectivity of the probe," city spokesperson Hwang In-sik told reporters.

Hwang did not elaborate on the scope or size of the committee, including whether the city's gender and human rights departments and the civic groups that represented the secretary will take part.

"The city's value is that fairness and objectivity should be prioritized ... we will decide on a level and scope that both sides can accept after sufficient consultations with women rights and human rights groups," Hwang added.

A detailed schedule for the investigation was not immediately provided.

The city said its priority will be to prevent any "secondary damages" inflicted on the former secretary and provide all possible support measures to help her recover.

Seoul metropolitan government spokesperson Hwang In-sik speaks during a press conference at Seoul City Hall in central Seoul on July 15, 2020. (Yonhap)

Hwang said the city will provide "valid, sufficient and maximum" support to the alleged victim, including therapy sessions with psychologists and safety measures for the former secretary's residence.

Wednesday's press briefing came amid growing pressure on the city to open a probe into the case, which women rights groups labeled as a typical instance of workplace sexual abuse involving a disparity in power.

Lee Mi-kyoung, who leads the Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center, stressed how the victim was "unable to decline or defy the mayor, as a secretary" and that her request for help fell through as most in the city government told her it must have been a "mistake" or that "it's part of a secretary's job to emotionally support the mayor."

mlee@yna.co.kr
(END)

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