July 17, 2020 11:59
Late Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon's accuser on Thursday detailed a climate of sexual harassment and servitude in the mayor's office aided and abetted by his staff.
In a statement, the mayor's ex-secretary also slammed a plan by the city government to investigate her allegations in-house with the aid of a few outside experts, saying officials guilty of "encouraging, abetting and overlooking" the mayor's sexual misconduct are unfit to look into the matter objectively.
The woman's lawyer, Kim Jae-ryon, said, "Gender discrimination was endemic within the work environment at the mayor's office." And two women's groups who represent the victim said the nature of the secretary's job was to "make the mayor feel good" and added that such duties were continually demanded by "people who found it important for the mayor to be in a good mood."
They added that "did not constitute sensible work parameters, but distorted gender roles forced on female employees." For instance, the secretary had to bring underclothes to the mayor if he went to take a shower after workouts and she was ordered to collect his gym clothes and undergarments that were left on the floor and put them in a bag to be sent to his home.
Staff at the mayor's were quoted as telling her, "A woman has to wake the mayor up from his naps so he doesn't feel bad." Also, the secretary was routinely asked by other staff to "make the mayor feel good" so that they could get the answers they wanted from him.
The woman says she asked for a transfer every six months since January 2016, but her requests were repeatedly turned down. She was finally transferred in July last year only to be asked back six months later. She said she warned the mayor's office of becoming engulfed in a "sex scandal" but human resources staff did not even try to look into her accusations.
Seoul city officials tried to "appease and prevent" the former secretary from going public with the allegations, according to the women's groups. They told her after she filed a police report earlier this month, "We support you, but you must not be swept away by political factions and women's groups," according to the groups' statement.
The groups said the ex-secretary was not the only victim and called on police to secure evidence from the mayor's office on the 6th floor of City Hall, which had around 40 staff between 2015 and 2019 when the accuser worked as Park's secretary.
They also urged politicians to stop referring to the victim as "the accuser" or "the complainant" in what they see as a bid to undermine her credibility.
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