Minister of Labor Pan Shih-wei (潘世偉) denied having an extramarital affair, after Next Magazine yesterday reported that he visited his secretary’s home three nights in a week earlier this month.
The 59-year-old Pan was spotted entering his 36-year-old female secretary’s residence at night three times within one week by the magazine, which published a story on the matter yesterday.
Ministry officials also said that Pan had taken the secretary, who does not have civil service status, abroad with him on official visits at least five times over the past six years, the magazine reported.
A ministry official told the magazine that Pan’s colleagues, considering it inappropriate, had tried to talk him out of taking her along, but to no avail.
Pan also provided her with a business class seat at taxpayers’ expense, which regulations forbid unless the traveler is a high-ranking civil servant, Next Magazine reported.
Pan accused the magazine of fabricating the story and said that the magazine would be held legally liable for the “false and misleading report.”
Pan said the secretary was a student of his at the Chinese Culture University and they have known each other for a long time.
“She is like a family member to me, a younger member of the family,” Pan said, adding that he is also on good terms with her family, who she lives with.
“I could visit her out of private friendship or for a discussion about work since we live in the same neighborhood. I don’t have to deny that I went to her place because there is nothing to hide,” he said.
In a press conference that he called yesterday, Pan said the report “is unfair to the female secretary.”
“Is it that there can only be an amorous relationship between a man and a woman? We don’t have friends or relatives?” Pan asked, adding that while the ministry has been advocating gender equality for years, the media are always misreading these kinds of interactions as extramarital affairs.
“Would I be reported as gay if my secretary were a guy?” he said.
Pan said the scandal is the result of deliberate defamation by someone who did not get their way during government department restructuring, adding that the visits and business-class seats arranged were all “in line with regulations.”
The secretary, surnamed Wang (王), said her workload is heavy and the minister sometimes is too busy for her to report to in the office.
Wang said she would avoid meeting Pan in private in the future, adding that she is disappointed at the gender discrimination evident in the stereotype about female secretaries and extramarital affairs being propagated.
Pan said he would report to Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) later in the day, who had asked Pan to clarify the matter publicly.