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Politicians' unethical behaviors disgrace parties before local elections

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Allegations likely to negatively affect swing voters: expert

By Lee Hae-rin

Rival parties, which are busy bracing for the June 1 local elections, are being held back by allegations of ethical lapses of figures linked to the Yoon Suk-yeol administration or the opposition party.

Kim Seong-hoe / Newsis
Kim Seong-hoe / Newsis
Kim Seong-hoe, the presidential secretary for religion and multiculturalism, which is a newly created post to address social discrimination and prejudice, drew backlash over his past homophobic and misogynistic remarks.
Over the years, Kim has written several controversial statements on Facebook, saying that homosexuality was a type of mental illness and describing the compensation demands by wartime sex slavery victims from the 1910-45 Japanese occupation of Korea as "money for sex." Kim has been suspended by the social media platform twice for his remarks.

He invited more criticism with his apology statement, Thursday, in which he said that homosexuality is a sexual preference that can be given up, just like quitting smoking.

In response, Rep. Ko Min-jung of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea called for Kim's disqualification. The presidential office said Friday that Kim has expressed his intention to resign to avoid creating trouble for the President.

Yoon Jae-soon, Yoon's confidant and secretary for general affairs, is another figure embroiled in controversy. He faced allegations of sexual harassment during his time as a prosecutor, for which he was subject to disciplinary measures on two occasions.

The presidential office said that the allegations against the secretary are a "minor case" and he was appointed to the position for his expertise rather than his proximity to the president.

Reps. Park Ji-hyun, right, and Yun Ho-jung, co-chairs of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea, apologize for the alleged sexual misconduct of Rep. Park Wan-joo at the National Assembly in Seoul, Thursday. Yonhap
Reps. Park Ji-hyun, right, and Yun Ho-jung, co-chairs of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea, apologize for the alleged sexual misconduct of Rep. Park Wan-joo at the National Assembly in Seoul, Thursday. Yonhap

On the opposition's side, the DPK expelled Rep. Park Wan-joo, a three-term lawmaker, over allegations of sexual assault, Thursday.

The case followed other high-profile sexual misconduct scandals involving DPK members, including the late former Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, former Busan Mayor Oh Keo-don and former South Chungcheong Province Governor An Hee-jung.

In the wake of the allegation, the party leadership canceled a local election campaign event in central Seoul and convened an emergency planning committee, which voted to expel Park from the party and initiate disciplinary proceedings in the National Assembly.

"I apologize to the victim, the victim's family and to everyone on behalf of the DPK," Rep. Park Ji-hyun, the DPK co-chairperson, said. She added that the party will take thorough measures against gender violence and lead system reform to end sexual harassment by people in power and balance gender inequality.

PPP chief spokesperson Rep. Kim Hyung-dong denounced the opposition party in a comment, Friday. Kim wrote that the DPK remains unchanged one year after sexual harassment scandals by the former Seoul and Busan mayors drew national outrage.

"Since a large share of young female voters show a progressive tendency, a series of scandals like these could become an issue and possibly influence the swing voters who voted for the progressive bloc," Cho Jin-man, a professor of political science at Duksung Women's University, told The Korea Times, Friday.

"If more such sexual harassment cases are revealed with more details and they continue to shock voters and draw more focus, it could eventually affect the (June 1) election results. However, at this point, the possibility is low."


Lee Hae-rin lhr@koreatimes.co.kr


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