With regard to the alleged sex assault by Yoon Chang-jung, a former presidential spokesman of South Korea, the U.S. Department of State said it was not a matter the department would get involved with. This alleged crime by a presidential spokesman, a national shame to South Korea, occurred during President Park Geun-hye's visit to the U.S., which was her first official visit to a foreign country as president. When the victim, a female intern for the Korean Embassy to the U.S., filed a complaint with the D.C. police, the police were originally going to treat the incident as a misdemeanor. As the Korean press began to expand its coverage on the case and questions began pouring in, the police just carefully repeated that they had started an investigation. From the start, it appeared the police would rather not get too involved.
Then, Yoon's press conference, after his firing, stirred up controversy. He himself caused trouble when things could have just settled down quietly. I was stunned at how he could lie with a straight face and desperately try to justify his behavior, while the eyes of so many people were on him. The New York Times reported that Yoon was the most controversial appointee of Park, and that he viciously attacked those who opposed her candidacy, calling them "political prostitutes" during the presidential campaign. It also reported a comment from the Democratic Party that the scandal was a "foreseeable tragedy."
It seems that this episode, which was initially to be treated as a misdemeanor, will cause unpredictable ripple effects. The Korean press is tenaciously following the case and the Korean government has requested a quick and thorough investigation. This enormous scandal, which was committed by a high-ranking government official who accompanied the president to her first summit meeting, will keep coming up in the domestic media, and political attacks will continue until the case is closed. There is a great possibility that a congressional hearing will be held on the case.
There was also a similar recent incident in the U.S., although the nature of the incident was different from Yoon's scandal. In April last year, a team of Secret Service agents was sent to Colombia for a summit meeting between the U.S. and Colombia. They were sent earlier to prepare for security measures but, on the night of their arrival, they brought in prostitutes to a drinking party in their hotel. This could have ended quietly, but a quarrel with the prostitutes over prices led to the world finding out about the incident. This incident happened less than 24 hours before the arrival of President Barack Obama. The team leader of the Secret Service immediately sent back the six agents involved in the incident and brought new agents promptly. The U.S. press praised the Secret Service, which responded quickly and carried out security measures in the worst possible situation.
The Yoon scandal could also have been minimized if it was handled promptly from the beginning. What makes me angry, more than anything else, is that Yoon would not have dared to treat the intern as he did if she were white instead of a Korean-American. He must have thought lightly of her because she is Korean. As a Korean-American, this makes me furious.
Fortunately, the public opinion in the U.S. is that the scandal, no matter how big it may be blown up, will not affect the results of Park's successful visit at all. The U.S. press regarded as a great gesture from Park that she apologized to the victim and her family, as well as the Korean people. Many also hold the opinion that the result of the police investigation, no matter what it may turn out to be, will not hurt Park's image at all both in the U.S. and Korea.
I hope that people will not blow up this scandal into a political battle. The new administration is still in its early stage. There are too many things to do to spend time on a political battle over this shameful scandal.
Jay Kim is a former U.S. congressman. He serves as chairman of the Kim Chang Joon US-Korea Foundation. For more information, visit Kim's website at www.jayckim.com.