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Seoul city apologizes over ex-mayor's sexual harassment

This file photo shows late former Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon. (Yonhap)
This file photo shows late former Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon. (Yonhap)
The Seoul city government apologized Tuesday after the state human rights watchdog deemed the sexual harassment allegations against former Mayor Park Won-soon to be true.

In a statement, acting Mayor Seo Jeong-hyup said the city government "humbly accepts" the results of the National Human Rights Commission's investigation into Park's alleged abuse of a secretary, which lasted several years until his death in an apparent suicide in July.

"We sincerely apologize to the victim and her family, who are undergoing a time of suffering, and to all citizens who felt great concern and disappointment due to this incident," Seo said.

The commission announced the results of its five-month-long investigation Monday, saying Park's actions toward his secretary amounted to sexual harassment, including sending "inappropriate" messages, photos and emojis late at night and touching her polished nails and hands in his office.

The watchdog, however, noted that it could not verify the secretary's other claims in the absence of witness accounts or evidence, especially as it applied stricter criteria than in other sexual harassment cases due to Park being unable to defend himself.

The commission said it made recommendations to the Seoul city government and other relevant agencies on ways to protect victims and prevent the recurrence of similar incidents.

The metropolitan government was urged to come up with measures to actively protect the former secretary, including from additional harm inflicted by Park's supporters and online commenters, the watchdog said.

It was also urged to change the gender-biased roles of secretaries and its response system for cases of sexual abuse.

Seo said in the statement that the city government will follow all the recommendations and take a closer look at internal practices.

"The Seoul city government will use the investigation results of the National Human Rights Commission as an opportunity for reform and commit ourselves to preventing a recurrence," he said. (Yonhap)