The National Human Rights Commission concluded that the behaviors committed by the late Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon against his secretary constituted sexual harassment. Park took his own life six months ago after he learned his former secretary pressed charges. The case came under the commission’s investigation five months ago. During the time, the victim had to endure severe secondary damages from society and supporters of the late mayor.
The commission fell short of defining Park’s actions as sexual advances and put them in a broader category of sexual harassment. Although some political consideration is suspected, it is meaningful that a state institution acknowledged the victim’s pain for the first time after a police and prosecution’s probe was excused by the death of the mayor — and though even the gender equality ministry turned a blind eye.
The case should raise awareness that anyone who is critical of the female victim of sexual harassment is committing secondary victimization. A pro-government civic group filed charges against the victim’s lawyer for defamation after blaming her for the mayor’s death. Such actions would certainly intimidate the victim.
The ruling Democratic Party (DP) was all defensive of the mayor who was a member of the party. DP lawmakers referred to the victim as “a complainant.” Rep. Nam In-soon, a women’s rights activist, should feel most shameful. She was first to tip off Park about the charge against him, leading to his pardon through suicide. Women’s rights groups have been demanding she surrender her legislative seat.
The DP has apologized after the commission finding, but that’s not enough. The party brought about sneering when it demanded “no-tolerance” for Justice Party head Kim Jong-cheol after he was accused of sexual advances against a member of the party. Even DP Rep. Kwon In-sook said she was ashamed of her party.
The commission has voted to advise a remedial order on the Seoul city government and other agencies to prevent recurrence of such misconduct and negligence. Since actions cannot be taken swiftly if a powerful local government head commits sexual abuses, changes in the system must follow. Police also must take actions so that political consideration does not deter its duty of protecting civilians, since the police now has the authority to close a case without referring it to the prosecution.
Secondary victimization and blaming the victim must be strongly punished. The victim and her family have pleaded with her critics to stop their assault. The victim needs compassion to return to her normal life.