Gender ministry hit for being ‘unconcerned’ about sexual abuse cases

15-Jul-2020 Intellasia | KoreaTimes | 6:02 AM Print This Post

The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family has been drawing criticism from civic activists for its reluctance to comment on a series of recent sexual abuse allegations aimed at high-profile figures, including the late Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon.

The ministry, which should represent women’s voices, has been working to root out various sex crimes and support the #MeToo movement. But it has remained silent over related issues recently, including the Nth Room case and a local court’s recent rejection of a US extradition request for Son Jung-woo, the operator of one of the world’s biggest child pornography sites who was recently released from a local prison.

With the criticism over the ministry’s reluctance escalating, it belatedly released a statement regarding the alleged sexual harassment by the former mayor, Tuesday.

In the statement, the ministry said it would support the victim in the case and conduct an inspection of the city government’s anti-sexual harassment measures and guidelines.

“We plan to request the Seoul Metropolitan government to come up with the measures to prevent any recurrence of such sexual harassment,” said Choi Sung-ji, the spokeswoman at the ministry in a statement.

However, civic groups representing the former secretary who raised the sexual harassment allegations against Park called for a full investigation into the case, saying the ministry didn’t provide any practical solution to support the victim and protect her from unreasonable public attention.

Since the case came to light after Park’s disappearance last Thursday, just a day after his former secretary filed a criminal complaint accusing him of sexual misconduct, she has suffered “secondary damage” following his death, which was confirmed early Friday morning. While public debate has heated up over his suicide and the validity of the allegations, some angry netisens have even attempted to reveal the former secretary’s identity and personal information.

Critics are questioning the gender equality ministry’s reluctance to clarify its stance over the recent high-profile sex crime cases as it is in charge of protecting women and children, and preventing sexual violence. Instead the ministry has insisted the government cannot intervene in cases by making judgments.

The ministry said it is not in line with the principle of separation of powers for the administration to express its opinion on a court ruling. For the same reason, it has not issued any official comments on the Nth Room case, while trials are ongoing.

Some analysts say it is difficult to recognise the leadership of Gender Equality minister Lee Jung-ok, due to her silence on the series of sexual exploitation cases. This contrasts with the fact that former minister Jin Sun-mi held an emergency council meeting to issue a message after news of singer Jung Joon-young’s sexual assault case broke out while she was in office.

In this regard, Youth Lab, a research organisation led by Rep. Ha Tae-kyung of the minor United Future Party, called on the gender ministry to prevent additional abuse of the alleged victim and step forward to investigate her allegations against the late Seoul mayor.

“It is too bad the ministry shows nonchalance in dealing with the issue even though serious secondary attacks on the victim are underway,” the organisation said in a statement.

Rep. Ha also pointed out the ministry has been turning away from the issue as it is a power-related sex crime.

“The truth about this case must be thoroughly investigated,” he said.


Category: Korea

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