SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korean President Park Geun-hye fired her chief spokesman because of what her office said Friday was a “disgraceful incident” during Park’s trip to the United States, in what could be a domestic blow after an otherwise widely praised appearance in Washington.
Without elaborating, the presidential Blue House said on its website that unspecified actions by spokesman Yoon Chang-jung marred the government’s dignity.
Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Officer Araz Alali said the department is investigating a report of misdemeanor sexual abuse, but he could not comment further. A police report obtained by The Associated Press states that a woman told police that a man “grabbed her buttocks without her permission” on Tuesday night at the W Washington D.C. hotel. The police report does not describe the circumstances or identify the accuser or suspect, except to say that the suspect is 56. Yoon, who is 56, wasn’t named in the report.
The Blue House said officials in its embassy in Washington were investigating, but Yoon couldn’t be reached for comment.
Park traveled to Washington seeking a show of unity with her country’s top ally at a time of high tension with rival North Korea, which unleashed a torrent of threats against Washington and Seoul in March and April. Her performance during a joint news conference with President Barack Obama and in a speech to the U.S. Congress won praise in Washington, but her spokesman’s firing could cause her political problems in Seoul.
Park, who was inaugurated in late February, faced bitter opposition in her first month on the job to policy proposals and her choices for top government posts, many of whom withdrew amid corruption and other claims.
Yoon, a conservative columnist before joining Park’s team last year and becoming spokesman after the inauguration, was disliked by many progressives. South Korea’s political and social landscape is fiercely divided. And Park, who was elected in December, has long faced claims from opponents of being aloof and an “imperial” decision-maker. She is the eldest child of late President Park Chung-hee, who led South Korea for 18 years in the 1960s and ’70s and is both denounced for human rights abuses and praised as a strong leader.
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