|Two Liberian government officials ― Daniel Tarr, director of the Department of Marine Environmental Protection, second from left, and Moses Owen Browne, Liberia's permanent representative to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), right ― have been accused of raping two Korean teenagers in the southeastern port city of Busan. Screenshot from Liberian Observer website|
By Lee Hyo-jin
Liberian residents here are furious over two male civil servants of their country who have been accused of having raped teenage Korean girls during their visit to the country to attend an international event held in the southeastern port city of Busan.
The two men ― Moses Owen Browne, Liberia's permanent representative to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and Daniel Tarr, director of the Department of Marine Environmental Protection ― were arrested on site for allegedly raping two middle school students at a hotel in Busan around 11 p.m., Sept. 22.
The suspects' personal information was disclosed by the Liberia Maritime Authority (LiMA) the following day. They were in Busan to participate in the 2022 Korea Maritime Week, co-organized by the Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries and the IMO, running from Sept. 21 to 23.
Browne and Tarr reportedly took the victims to their hotel after meeting them near Busan Station. They were arrested on the spot after an acquaintance of the alleged victims filed a police report, according to Busan Dongbu Police Station.
The two have been detained after the Busan District Court approved an arrest warrant, Sunday, citing concerns of them fleeing or destroying evidence. One of the men, who holds a diplomatic passport, invoked diplomatic immunity to the police. But the law enforcement authorities viewed that he was not entitled to it as he was not dispatched to a diplomatic mission.
The head of the 500-member Liberian association of Korea, Christina Doe, told The Korea Times, Monday, that she was "devastated and disturbed" to hear the news.
"It's like a nightmare for us. These government officials holding diplomatic passports should be good role models and set examples. We strongly condemn their uncivilized behavior on minors that mustn't occur in any parts of the world," said the Liberian national who has been living in Korea for 13 years.
Regarding speculations raised by some Liberian media reports that the suspects were set up by the teenagers, she said, "We don't care about what the teenagers did wrong. And even if they (the men) didn't know that they (victims) were underage, it doesn't justify them to act immorally."
She also said Liberian residents fear this case may stigmatize Liberians and tarnish their home country's image.
The association is planning to organize a public gathering in Seoul to show solidarity with Koreans and demand strong punishment in accordance to Korean laws once the suspects are proven guilty.
For its part, the LiMA expressed "grave concerns" and vowed to cooperate fully with the Korean government in the ongoing investigation.
"LiMA unequivocally maintains a zero-tolerance stance on any and all types of sexual and gender-based offenses, and views these allegations of the conduct of its officials as most egregious, having no place in any civilized society," it said in a press release, Sept. 23.
"Liberia Maritime Authority will fully cooperate with the Government of the Republic of South Korea in the investigation of this incident and vows to take appropriate actions, pursuant to national and international laws."
The Liberian Embassy in Japan, which oversees affairs in South Korea, did not respond to The Korea Times' inquiry for comments.