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[ED] Probe of harassment allegations

Rights watchdog should shed light on late mayor's case

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) will soon investigate the sexual harassment allegations against the late former Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon. The decision was made at the complainant's request and accepted unanimously by the commission.

The criminal case was closed with no indictment following the former mayor's death. Park was found dead, in a suspected suicide, two days after the sexual harassment complaint was filed with the police on July 10. The victim rejected the Seoul Metropolitan Government's offers for investigation amid a controversy over whether there was a conflict of interest.

An investigation by the human rights watchdog is therefore all the more relevant, because it can pressure related agencies and institutions to redress any institutional or cultural elements to tackle sexual harassment.

The commission investigation has to look broadly into the sexual harassment allegations, on the possible leak to the mayor of the complaint filed to the police, and on whether the Seoul municipal government abetted or turned a blind eye to the allegations.

The state-run commission's investigation will also have to review and come up with measures to deal with possible sexual discriminatory elements in the recruitment of secretarial posts at public institutions, the protection against secondary harm for complainants in the workplace and the punitive measures for sexual assault carried out by elected officials, as the victim asked.

The commission, unfortunately, does not enjoy legally binding authority. Should any person called in for questioning choose not to cooperate or decide not to provide full information, the investigation team would have no options to force them to comply. Its effectiveness with a precedent case ― a high-profile #MeToo case of a female prosecutor ― had also come under heavy scrutiny, casting clouds over this case as well. In 2018, the commission had conducted an investigation into sexual harassment allegations by prosecutor Seo Ji-hyun, but tentatively ended it after a week before completely closing the investigation five months later.

It is 2020, and the commission should not be bogged down by its inherent limitations nor any preceding failures. Its investigation team should fully rise to the task to determine what happened over the course of the former secretary's four-year employment with the city government. Those who may be called up for questioning including former and incumbent officials of the city government should cooperate. It is not just a gender issue; it is a pan-social issue as well. Any set of recommendations it comes up with after the investigations can serve as a standard for public institutions and largely for Korean society to adhere to.

The ongoing prosecution investigation, and the police investigation related to the sexual harassment allegations and the mayor's death should also do their utmost in their respective probes to get to the truth.


Rights watchdog should shed light on late mayor's case

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) will soon investigate the sexual harassment allegations against the late former Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon. The decision was made at the complainant's request and accepted unanimously by the commission.

The criminal case was closed with no indictment following the former mayor's death. Park was found dead, in a suspected suicide, two days after the sexual harassment complaint was filed with the police on July 10. The victim rejected the Seoul Metropolitan Government's offers for investigation amid a controversy over whether there was a conflict of interest.

An investigation by the human rights watchdog is therefore all the more relevant, because it can pressure related agencies and institutions to redress any institutional or cultural elements to tackle sexual harassment.

The commission investigation has to look broadly into the sexual harassment allegations, on the possible leak to the mayor of the complaint filed to the police, and on whether the Seoul municipal government abetted or turned a blind eye to the allegations.

The state-run commission's investigation will also have to review and come up with measures to deal with possible sexual discriminatory elements in the recruitment of secretarial posts at public institutions, the protection against secondary harm for complainants in the workplace and the punitive measures for sexual assault carried out by elected officials, as the victim asked.

The commission, unfortunately, does not enjoy legally binding authority. Should any person called in for questioning choose not to cooperate or decide not to provide full information, the investigation team would have no options to force them to comply. Its effectiveness with a precedent case ― a high-profile #MeToo case of a female prosecutor ― had also come under heavy scrutiny, casting clouds over this case as well. In 2018, the commission had conducted an investigation into sexual harassment allegations by prosecutor Seo Ji-hyun, but tentatively ended it after a week before completely closing the investigation five months later.

It is 2020, and the commission should not be bogged down by its inherent limitations nor any preceding failures. Its investigation team should fully rise to the task to determine what happened over the course of the former secretary's four-year employment with the city government. Those who may be called up for questioning including former and incumbent officials of the city government should cooperate. It is not just a gender issue; it is a pan-social issue as well. Any set of recommendations it comes up with after the investigations can serve as a standard for public institutions and largely for Korean society to adhere to.

The ongoing prosecution investigation, and the police investigation related to the sexual harassment allegations and the mayor's death should also do their utmost in their respective probes to get to the truth.



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