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2015-08-06 16:01
By Jun Ji-hye

Female politicians usually respond promptly to inappropriate language or behavior directed toward women ― especially following incidents of sexual assault.

However, this previously apparent core value of female lawmakers seems to be shaken when it conflicts with the interests of their political party.

This might have been the reason why female lawmakers of the ruling Saenuri Party have shown inconsistency regarding allegations of sexual assault involving male politicians.

The latest example was the silence of female lawmakers of the ruling party about Rep. Sim Hag-bong who is suspected of having raped a 48-year-old insurance sales woman in a hotel room in Daegu on July 13.

Sim quit the governing party Monday, hours before being summoned by police.

In response to the case, into which the prosecution is now investigating, female lawmakers of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) called on Sim to give up his National Assembly seat.

Even some members of the ruling party argued that Sim should be referred to the National Assembly Ethics Committee that will review whether to expel him from the parliament.

However, female lawmakers of the Saenuri Party have avoided speaking openly about Sim’s case.

They also maintained silence about the controversy surrounding former National Assembly Speaker and adviser to the Saenuri Party, Park Hee-tae, 77, who was accused of sexually harassing a female caddie, 24, at a golf club in September last year. Park was sentenced to six months in jail, a sentence that was suspended for one year.

This is in contrast to their prompt response to allegations of sexual harassment against Rep. Lim Nae-hyun of the NPAD on July 16, 2013.

At the time, Lim was embroiled in controversy over inappropriate remarks he made about unmarried women’s pregnancies during a luncheon meeting with a group of reporters.

The following day, Kim Hyun-sook, former lawmaker of the ruling party who was the party’s representative to the National Assembly Gender Equality and Family Committee, held a news conference. “Rep. Lim must apologize on bended knees about his sexist remarks,” she said.

At the time, NPAD female members of the committee also issued a statement, saying “Lim made sexist remarks that he should have not made. The party will enhance sexual harassment preventive education as well as gender equality promotion education.”

The inconsistent responses lead to the criticism that the ruling party’s female lawmakers have apparently overlooked suspicions on the governing side, while actively launching attacks against those involving opposition members.

Indeed, there has been a precedent of the Saenuri Party’s female members expressing their position openly about allegations of sexual harassment surrounding members of the governing side.

Fifteen female lawmakers, including Rep. Kim Eul-dong, issued a statement on May 12, 2013, criticizing former presidential spokesman Yoon Chang-jung who was removed following suspicions that he sexually assaulted a Korean-American woman hired to help the Seoul delegation in Washington.

However, at the time, criticism also followed because it was a sluggish response, which came three days after President Park Geun-hye had already fired him.


Follow Jun Ji-hye on Twitter @TheKopJihye


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