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(LEAD) Rights watchdog gives ministry recommendation about New Zealand sexual abuse case

All News 17:10 September 03, 2020

(ATTN: CHANGES headline, lead; UPDATES throughout)

SEOUL, Sept. 3 (Yonhap) -- The state human rights watchdog has recommended that the foreign ministry improve "shortcomings" revealed in its handling of a sexual misconduct case involving a Korean diplomat once posted in New Zealand, a source said Thursday.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) gave the nonbinding recommendation on Wednesday, which apparently includes the diplomat's provision to the petitioner of a specific amount of money in compensation.

A former local employee at Korea's Embassy in Wellington has accused the diplomat of groping him on three occasions in 2017, a case that resurfaced after New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern raised the issue in July phone talks with President Moon Jae-in.

The foreign ministry said that it will pore over the NHRC recommendation and take "necessary steps."

The commission was also believed to have recommended that the ministry establish guidelines aimed at ensuring fairness in its investigation of sexual harassment cases at overseas missions and in its program to support the alleged victim.

It was also said to have pointed out shortcomings, such as the absence of guidelines governing investigation and other procedures to deal with sexual misconduct cases and a lack of efforts to separate the apparent victim from the alleged perpetrator.

But the commission noted that there do not appear to be "procedural" problems in the ministry's handling of the case in question, the source said. It also did not recommend any reinvestigation.

A government institution is supposed to hand in its implementation plan within 90 days of its receipt of the commission's recommendation, though it is not legally binding.

The diplomat in question was moved to a new post in the Philippines in 2018 and was later disciplined with a reduction in salary for a month. He recently came back home at the ministry's order after the case resurfaced.


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