|Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) Chairman Lee Hae-chan speaks with reporters after visiting the memorial altar for the late Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon at a hospital in Seoul, Friday. Korea Times photo by Koh Young-kwon|
By Do Je-hae
The ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) is reeling from a series of sexual scandals involving some of it biggest star politicians.
According to the police, a former female secretary filed a sexual harassment complaint with the police against the late Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon before he was found dead early Friday.
Previously, DPK heavyweights such as former Busan Mayor Oh Keo-don and former South Chungcheong Province Governor Ahn Hee-jung have come under fire for allegations of sexual misconduct.
Many Koreans find the allegation of sexual misconduct against Park particularly alarming, given that the former human rights lawyer has been a staunch supporter of women's rights and has placed gender equality at the forefront of his policy goals as mayor. Park is believed to have taken his own life for fear of a #Metoo scandal.
The series of #Metoo allegations to hit the ruling party heavyweights is feared to severely damage the people's trust in the DPK, which is already facing criticism for its unilateral operation of the National Assembly. Some Koreans are calling it the "sexual violence party," mocking the series of sexual allegations from its high-profile politicians.
The cases of Park, Oh and Ahn and similar in that the victims all involve female secretaries who worked closely with them. Oh is undergoing investigation into an allegation that he made sexual advances toward his secretary in May at his office. Ahn is serving a prison sentence for raping and sexually harassing a female secretary. He had been a considered a possible contender in the next presidential race.
The Seoul mayor's death is tragic, but some citizens are becoming furious at the party for the endless sexual scandals. There are also rising concerns that the sexual scandals surrounding the ruling party will degrade Korea's image internationally. International media have also been active in reporting the death of the mayor and its link to the #Metoo movement.
Cheong Wa Dae has not issued any statement regarding Park's death, but some of its top officials, including presidential chief of staff Noh Young-min visited a memorial altar for the late mayor Friday afternoon and conveyed the President's condolences.
The presidential office recently took flak for sending condolences to Ahn who was temporarily released from prison to take part in his late mother's funeral. Some citizens said that it was inappropriate, given that Ahn, despite his long ties to President Moon Jae-in, is a sexual criminal.
The sudden death of the Seoul mayor is expected to hamper not just the city administration, but also some major policy events.
Cheong Wa Dae was planning to hold an event on July 13 to promote Moon's "Korean new deal" for creating jobs and reviving the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But the presidential office said the date has been moved to July 14.
The presidential office is in shock over the death of Park, who has long ties to President Moon. The head of the press center cancelled its regular briefing and is being cautious in speak about the incident.
|Lawmakers from the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) wait for the hearse carrying the late Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon at a hospital in Seoul, Friday. Yonhap|
DPK Chairman Lee Hae-chan reportedly became angry when faced with questions about Park's possible involvement in a #Metoo scandal after his visit to a memorial altar at a hospital in Seoul, Friday.
"He is a friend of 40 years who was at my side during our time as student activists for democracy in the 1970s," Lee said. "Park paved the way for the civic movement and has led Seoul for 10 years as mayor. I am heartbroken beyond words can express at his death."