Mon, May 13, 2013 - Page 4 News List

Sex scandal overshadows Park Geun-hye’s US visit

‘SHAMEFUL’:While South Korea’s presidential office apologized over the case, US police said they were investigating a report of a misdemeanor sexual abuse

AFP, SEOUL

South Korea’s presidential office apologized yesterday for a “shameful” scandal involving a former senior official who was fired midway through South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s US visit.

Former South Korean presidential spokesman Yoon Chang-jung was fired last week over allegations that he had sexually harassed a female intern — a Korean-American — while accompanying Park on her trip last week.

The presidential chief of staff yesterday said Yoon had been involved in an “embarrassing and unsavory incident” and apologized to the victim and her family.

“We offer our deepest apology to all South Koreans, the victim, her family and Korean expatriates overseas for the incident,” Huh Tae-yeol told a press conference, adding he had been left “speechless.”

“This is an unacceptable and very shameful incident,” he said without elaborating on its nature.

Huh added that Lee Nam-ki, the top spokesman for Park, and Yoon’s superior, had offered to resign to take responsibility, but did not say whether the resignation had been accepted.

Yoon returned to Seoul on Wednesday without accompanying Park on her trip to Los Angeles, the final stop on her US visit.

Washington police told South Korea’s Yonhap news agency they were “investigating the report of a misdemeanor sexual abuse” by an unnamed 56-year-old male suspect.

A Washington police report obtained by Yonhap and the Washington Post said the suspect allegedly “grabbed her buttocks without her permission.”

Yoon denied the allegation, saying he had merely “patted her waist” while drinking with the intern — a college student in her early 20s — at a Washington bar on Tuesday night and he had no sexual intent.

“I implore her to forgive me if I had hurt her due to differences in culture. I offer my apology to her,” the 56-year-old said at a live TV press conference on Saturday.

The scandal overshadowed Park’s US tour — her first overseas trip since taking office in February — that would otherwise have been considered a success.

Park held a summit with US President Barack Obama, with the two leaders united in a vow to offer no concessions when dealing with North Korea.

She also addressed a joint session of the US Congress, stressing that Pyongyang had to give up its nuclear weapons while also proposing small peace steps after months of high tensions.

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