South Korean President Park Geun Hye has fired her spokesman over an unspecified “unsavoury” act during her trip to the US this week.
Yonhap news agency citedsenior presidential press secretary Lee Nam Ki as saying that presidential spokesman Yoon Chang Jung was personally involved in “an inappropriate act for a high-level official” that “hurt national dignity.”
Yonhap cited rumors that Yoon – a former political columnist – had sexually harassed a South Korean woman in her early 20s who was temporarily hired by the embassy in Washington to assist with duties related to the president’s visit.
The Chosun Ilbo carrieda report suggesting that the incident took place when Yoon was drinking at a hotel bar with members of the embassy staff until dawn.
DC police were then reportedly called by an intern, but did not arrest Yoon. A Metropolitan Police Department spokeswoman told Yonhap that police were also investigating.
Lee, meantime, said only that South Korea‘s embassy in Washington was looking into the incident and the findings would be made public.
Comments surrounding news of the alleged crime keeps a narrative, in which the South Korean president, at best a figurehead, cannot hire competent staff people who won’t embarrass her.
Yoon joined Park’s team as the spokesman for her transition team after earning himself a name as staunchly right-wing columnist during the presidential election period. Despite criticisms for his incommunicativeness throughout the transition team operation, Park named him as her first Cheong Wa Dae spokesman upon inauguration.
And, according to Yoo Eun Lee, Yoon’s alleged misdemeanor or crime is hypocritical when Yoon’s criticisms of the last South Korean administration is included.
According to local reports and the initial Missy USA post, the victim is believed [ko] to be a Korean-American US citizen who worked at the Korean Embassy in the United States. Based on various reports published so far net users speculate [ko] that after the victim reported crime police visited Yoon, but as Yoon is a member of a diplomatic delegation needed to take the proper steps required when dealing with diplomats. While police sere handling the extra paperwork Yoon fled the country.
This theory is partly supported by a Yonhap news report [ko], which confirms that Yoon did not even packed his things. Yonhap adds commentary that, “it seems he hurriedly returned to Korea to run away from US police”.
Since the alleged crime took place on US soil it must be investigated and prosecuted according to US law, explains [ko] News Tomato. But the report adds that “it is also possible that the investigation will move to South Korea which follows the nationality principle […] If that happens, things turn extra complicated for the victim since sexual crimes are treated as ‘offense subject to complaint‘ and the more feasible scenario is Yoon trying to to make a settlement with the victim.”
According to Yonhap news [ko], Yoon did not even packed his things, and Hangyoreh even re-enacted the scene and wrote [ko] that Yoon, while President Park was giving a speech, took a cab to a nearby airport and bought an airline ticket – and paid with a credit card, without forgetting to upgrade it to business-class.
Several local media added even more details [ko]; Yoon, as soon as he came back to South Korea, requested the Secretary’s Office (full name: Senior Secretary to the President for Civil Affairs) to accept his resignation. But his request was denied and, soon after, Yoon was officially fired.
Yoon, who is an extreme right-winger, is quite a controversial figure even for the conservative ruling party, and there has been sharp criticism of his appointment as spokesman. It is ironic that Yoon, a former columnist, attacked [ko] the previous administration’s lawmakers over their sex scandals and commented, “Korean people endure much stress from hearing news about those ‘crazy dudes’ who constantly commit sexual assault/harassment.”
I could foresee a bizarre twist where Park Geun-hye takes more of a hit than this sleazebag, thereby both diminishing the urgency of punishing molesters and Park’s laudable accomplishment as South Korea’s first female chief executive.