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  • Writer's pictureAlexander Han

US Human Rights Report presents “Cho Kuk, Park Won-soon, Yoon Mi-hyang...”

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US Human Rights Report presents “Cho Kuk, Park Won-soon, Yoon Mi-hyang...” as examples of corruption in Korea.

In the 2020 edition of the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices that the U.S. Department of State is planning to publish officially, several examples of corruption and sexual harrasment among officials in South Korea were included, according to the US media outlet Voice of America on March 20 (local time). Though the main focus was on human rights issues in North Korea, 2020 report included detailed reference to corruption and sexual harrasment of those related to South Korea’s ruling party.

The Department of State pointed out, in the “Corruption” part of the “Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government” section, the alleged corruption against former Minister of Justice Cho Kuk and lawmaker Kim Hong-gul.

The report read “As of October the investigation into alleged corruption by former justice minister Cho Kuk, his wife Chung Kyung-sim, and others connected to his family continued. In December 2019 prosecutors indicted Cho on charges of receiving bribes, graft, abuse of power, violating the ethics code of public servants, and other crimes.” The alleged corruption against former Minister Cho was included in the report two years in a row, in both 2019 and 2020.

Regarding Kim Hong-gul, the report wrote, “On September 18, the party expelled first-term lawmaker Kim Hong-gul, son of former president Kim Dae-jung, over allegations that he had failed to report all of his real estate assets before taking office.”

In the “Sexual Harrassment” part of the “Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons” section, it pointed out that sexual harrasment has become an important societal problem in Korea in 2020, and many sexual harrassment allegations were reported, including those by high-ranking officials. Specifically, Park Won-soon, former mayor of Seoul, and Oh Geo-don, former mayor of Busan, were mentioned together.

Regarding Mayor Park, the report wrote, “Seoul mayor Park Won-soon died by suicide July 9, the day after his former secretary filed a complaint to the police alleging that Park had sexually harassed her. According to the complaint, from 2017 onward Park had repeatedly touched the woman without her consent and sent her inappropriate messages and photos, with the harassment continuing even after she transferred offices.”

The report also wrote, “In a statement made after Park’s death, the secretary said that Park had sent her photos of him wearing only underwear and called her into a bedroom attached to his office, asking her to embrace him.”

The report also wrote about the latest situation where by law the case terminated after Park’s death, but women’s rights advocates and the complainant’s lawyer continued to press for a complete investigation.

The report of the Department of State explained, “Park was known as a champion for women’s rights and was highly regarded for his successful representation in 1993 of the victim in what is seen as the country’s first sexual harassment case.”

The Department of State also included last year’s allegation of the “misuse of comfort women funds” by Yoon Mi-hyang, lawmaker of Democratic Party in the report.

The report said, “In September the Seoul prosecutor’s office indicted first-term National Assembly lawmaker Yoon Mi-hyang on charges of fraud, embezzlement, dereliction of duty, and other charges relating to the misuse of funds during her tenure as the former head of the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, an NGO dedicated to supporting former comfort women.”

The report also pointed out that the restriction of freedom of expression is a significant human rights issue. It mentioned that human rights advocates and opposition political leaders criticized the law criminalizing the act of disseminating leaflets to North Korea as an infringement of the freedom of expression.

The Department of State, in accordance with the Foreign Assistance Act, must submit a report to congress every year regarding the previous year’s human rights situations in all United Nations member states. Previously, regarding South Korea’s human rights situation, the National Security Law and conscientious objection to military service used to be raised.

The 2016 version of the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices pointed out that the arrest and indictment of former president Park Geun-hye and her aide Choi Soon-sil for fraud, intimidation, and abuse of power was an example of political corruption.


JoongAng Ilbo (March 22nd, 2021) (Korean Original)

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