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(LEAD) City of Seoul toughens rules against sexual crimes in officialdom

All News 17:42 April 20, 2021

(ATTN: ADDS new info in paras 12-15, 18-19)

SEOUL, April 20 (Yonhap) -- The city of Seoul is introducing a new rule under which officials involved in sexual crimes will be expelled immediately, Mayor Oh Se-hoon said on Tuesday.

Oh made the announcement during a press briefing arranged to formally apologize to the victim of alleged sexual harassment by his predecessor Park Won-soon. Park was found dead last July in an apparent suicide amid allegations that he harassed a female secretary.

"I declare the immediate introduction of a 'one-strike-and-you're-out' rule," the mayor said.

He noted the city hall failed to eradicate sexual crimes due to its lenient responses like transferring perpetrators to other posts without punishing them.

From now on, sexual offenders will not be given a second chance and will be fired immediately after their wrongdoing is confirmed, he said.

Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon attends a Cabinet meeting at the main government complex in Seoul on April 20, 2021. (Yonhap)

Oh, affiliated with the main opposition People Power Party, assumed his third term after overwhelmingly winning a by-election on April 7.

"At the same time, to protect victims of sexual harassment and violence, I promise there will be no tolerance in the event of secondary victimization," he said.

The victim of Park's alleged harassment suffered further harm after his death, as some of his supporters raised doubts about her claim and sympathized with the deceased mayor.

Oh said he met with the woman and discussed measures to help her return to work smoothly.

She asked for a reinvestigation of officials suspected of connivance in the incident and secondary victimization, Oh said, vowing a thorough inquiry.

She requested that disciplinary actions against them be minimized so that she would not face a difficult atmosphere after restarting work, he added.

The mayor said he had already disciplined an official responsible for the city's inappropriate handling of the incident, including the city-led funeral service and five-day mourning period for Park.

"We took personnel measures on an official who was in a position responsible for personnel affairs and funeral issues at the time of the incident," he said.

On Monday, the metropolitan government relegated an official in charge of administrative affairs to the city-affiliated office of waterworks.

Later Tuesday, the woman expressed gratitude to the mayor. She appreciated "a sincere apology coming from a responsible figure about what went wrong" in a statement issued through her legal representatives and civic groups.

Oh also said he will deliver on his campaign pledge to establish an independent committee of outside experts against sexual offenses, as recommended by the national human rights watchdog.

The city government will open hotlines for reporting sexual incidents and enhance education on sexual harassment in all the city's offices and affiliated institutions and corporations, he added.

In Busan, Mayor Park Heong-joon and senior officials held a ceremony to pledge to root out sexual crimes and promote gender equality in workplaces.

Park also won the April 7 by-election to fill the mayoral position that had been vacant since his predecessor resigned in April 2020 over allegations of sexual harassment and assaults against female city officials.

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