Seoul City to Launch Inquiry into Charges Against Late Mayor

  • By Choi Kyung-woon, Park Sang-hyun, Kim Hyeong-won

    July 16, 2020 10:33

    The Seoul Metropolitan Government on Wednesday pledged to launch an inquiry into allegations of sexual harassment against Mayor Park Won-soon, who committed suicide last week.

    The city government said a committee of civilians and public officials will look into the allegations brought by Park's former secretary.

    Opposition lawmakers are calling for prosecutors to investigate, but normally investigations are dropped once the suspect dies. Police have already announced that there is no need to seek an indictment against the mayor since he is dead.

    A Seoul city spokesman told reporters, "To guarantee fairness and objectivity, we will set up a joint investigation committee with external experts on law, women's rights and human rights."

    But the plans drew criticism because Seoul city officials are accused of ignoring repeated complaints from Park's former secretary accusing him of years of sexual harassment. They are also suspected of leaking the complaints she filed with police to Park before he killed himself.

    Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon walks near his residence wearing a backpack on July 9, the day he committed suicide, in this grab from CCTV footage provided by a reader.

    Police are also accused of dragging their heels over the investigation of the mayor's death. They were quick to establish that Koh Han-seok, Park's chief secretary, was the last person to speak to the mayor on the day he died, but did not summon him for questioning until six days later.

    Koh was finally questioned by police on Wednesday. He is a main suspect when it comes to leaking the woman's police complaint to Park.

    Police also found Park's iPhone but waited until Wednesday to conduct a forensic analysis saying they needed permission from Park's family. But according to law, police do not need family permission to track the mobile phone records of a dead person.

    Opposition figures suspect that people inside the police close to Park tipped him off to the complaint. United Future Party lawmaker Jung Hee-yong said, "This raises suspicions that a police officer dispatched as a liaison to the Seoul city government was the source. This needs to be investigated thoroughly."

    Meanwhile, Minjoo Party leader Lee Hae-chan issued a belated apology for the grief caused by the mayor, who was a member of the ruling party. "As party leader, I feel I should apologize for and offer words of consolation," Lee told reporters.

    Critics say that is too little, too late, and point out that many ruling party lawmakers including Lee are reluctant to refer the woman as "the victim" but instead call her "the accuser" or "the complainant" in an attempt to dilute the charges.

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