What They Said is a regular series on the quotes Korea is talking about.
People Power Party leader Lee Jun-seok’s alleged sexual favors scandal
In December 2021, the controversial YouTube channel Garo Sero Institute raised allegations of sexual favors received by the People Power Party leader Lee Jun-seok. The allegations were based on some apparently leaked investigation notes that had been compiled by the Daejeon District Prosecutors’ Office. Kang Yong-seok, a lawyer and the co-host of the YouTube channel, claimed that Lee had received sexual favors from Kim Sung-jin, the CEO of an IT company named i-KAIST, at a hotel in Daejeon. Lee immediately denied the allegations and expressed his intent to file a lawsuit against Garo Sero Institute for spreading false information.
The scandal was largely ignored by the mainstream media due to their coverage of the presidential election over the past few months, but Garo Sero Institute’s co-host Kang once again brought the issue to the surface on April 7 with previously unheard recordings and claimed that Lee had not only received sexual favors but had also tried to destroy relevant evidence.
On April 7, 2022, the Democratic Party of Korea officially addressed this issue for the first time:
The People Power Party leader Lee Jun-seok has been reported to the police for asking another person to destroy evidence in connection with the allegation that he received sexual favors.
If it is true that the leader of the first opposition party and leader of the soon-to-be ruling party not only received sexual favors but also abetted the destruction of evidence, this is a very serious problem.
As it was difficult to trust the public credibility of [Garo Sero Institute] who raised the allegation, we have simply been watching for a while to see how the issue unfolds. Rather than the suspicions being dispelled, however, material evidence is emerging, such as recordings of Lee Jun-seok’s phone calls.
Each political party is strengthening its ethical verification standards ahead of local election nominations. I believe that the People Power Party included sexual abuse in the newly established five criteria for disqualification.
Then, how can a party leader, who should be leading the nominations, be himself facing such allegations of sexual misconduct?
Moreover, if he did ask someone to destroy relevant evidence to cover up such suspicions, it is not a matter that can be glossed over, as it means he is not qualified to be a public figure.
Additionally, Kang Yong-seok, the lawyer who raised the allegations, is strongly protesting that Lee did not allow him to be reinstated to the party after he had pointed out Lee’s attempt to destroy evidence.
The police investigation will proceed since the charges have been filed, but Lee Jun-seok must provide an acceptable explanation to the people beforehand.
We look forward to his clear explanation and cooperation with the investigation.
— Oh Young-hwan, floor spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Korea, April 7, 2022.
Two days later, Lee responded to the allegations via Facebook:
I’ve been busy all week with party matters, and I haven’t been able to immediately respond to the past week’s rumors around distorted facts. Now that it’s the weekend, I have figured out what has been going on. First of all, I would like to express my deepest dismay that the Democratic Party of Korea and some media outlets have publicized the current issue in response to maliciously edited YouTube broadcasts.
The sexual misconduct allegation that Garo Sero Institute raised about me in December is false. Deciding that it would not be a good idea during the important presidential election process to frequently and repeatedly respond to this allegation made up of snippets of information and distortions, I immediately appointed an attorney and took legal action. In addition, I submitted to the investigating agency a statement of opinion and supporting materials that directly refute the allegation. The investigative agencies now need to reveal the truth promptly and according to procedures.
During this investigation, however, I heard that [Garo Sero Institute] recently edited a recording of a conversation between Kim Cheol-geun, the head of political affairs for the People Power Party, and a so-called informant, and raised another allegation about my requesting the destruction of evidence. Kim was only trying to obtain a fact certificate at the request of his lawyer.
Shortly after Garo Sero Institute raised the allegation [about me] on YouTube last year, an informant named Jang said that the contents of the YouTube episode were false and that they could testify on the issue. Yet Garo Sero Institute deleted all of that and broadcast the rest. Garo Sero Institute will know better about what happened, and I will certainly hold them accountable.
I had a full schedule during the presidential race, so I entrusted Kim Cheol-geun to communicate with the informant. Since the informant contacted me first and said that he would confirm the facts, I do not know what the evidence is in their claim of the “destruction of evidence”.
Kang Yong-seok is asserting that I rejected his request to be reinstated to the party out of spite due to his YouTube broadcasts.
However, had there been any private feelings involved, I would have waited for the official nomination deadline to arrive rather than bringing it to the meeting, as I explained in a press interview. Instead, as the nomination interview and application deadlines approached, I immediately sent the agenda of Kang’s reinstatement from the Seoul branch of the party to a meeting, and the Supreme Council immediately voted on it as required to by the party constitution and bylaws. Kang’s reinstatement request was rejected by a majority of the Supreme Council members. I was afraid that the party leader’s opinion might sway the council’s decision, and therefore we went straight to a vote without me even expressing my opinion on the issue. Since there is no reason to believe that the majority of the Supreme Council members also harbored grudges against him, this controversy about my spite is literally noise marketing with a political purpose.
And didn’t Kang Yong-seok call me the day before the meeting and offer to take down the videos himself and drop the indictment and accusation against me? In fact, before the Supreme Council vote, all videos related to my so-called sexual scandal were taken down from the Garo Sero Institute’s YouTube channel; when the rejection of his request for reinstatement was confirmed, all the videos were restored again. I have no intention of responding to these inappropriate trade proposals, and I only set the agenda for the meeting to perform my duties fairly.
To be honest, I voted against Kang Yong-seok’s reinstatement. The fact that he had raised an allegation of sexual assault against a member of our party, who was acquitted, and that many members of our party contacted me with concerns after watching him having fun tearing apart women’s underwear on YouTube the day before probably influenced my decision. Still, the memories of the past experiences I shared with Kang almost acted as a positive influence, but those memories were not enough for me to agree to his reinstatement.
I am well aware that Kang’s political purpose is to turn this into an old-fashioned he-said-she-said issue. The results of the police investigation, which will be concluded soon, will reveal everything.
Party members and colleagues, please wait for those results. I am extremely sorry for the trouble this has caused.
— Lee Jun-seok, leader of the People Power Party, April 9, 2022.
Cho Guk’s daughter’s rescinded university admissions
Another piece of news that caught people’s attention this past week was the decision by two universities to revoke the admissions of former Justice Minister Cho Guk’s daughter, Cho Min. Pusan National University, which had admitted Cho Min to its medical school in 2015, announced on April 6 its decision to rescind her admission due to falsified academic credentials. The following day, Korea University also revoked her undergraduate admission from 2010 for the same reason. Her father, Cho Guk, responded by filing nullity suits and posted the following on Facebook:
Pusan National University and Korea University each canceled my daughter’s admission. As a father, I feel as if I am being stabbed in the heart with an awl and having my skin peeled with a razor.
My daughter has sued both schools through her lawyer. Although there were serious differences between the facts and the legal judgments in my spouse’s trial, I have accepted the outcome. In the same way, I will accept the outcome of my daughter’s trial. I am only imploring others to take a closer look at whether there was an excessive infringement of rights.
As a father, I would like to ask president-elect Yoon Suk-yeol, “Are you satisfied now?” Prosecutor Yoon Suk-yeol failed to arrest [me,] the Justice Minister candidate, with a private equity scandal, and instead raised issues with my child’s internship and extracurricular activities to drag me down and detain my spouse. As a result, the university admissions of my child were canceled. Thanks to this investigation, Prosecutor General Yoon Suk-yeol quickly established himself as a major presidential contender. It was a project to slaughter one family that resulted in great political success.
I ask the president-elect Yoon Suk-yeol, the prosecution service, the media, and the National Assembly to please investigate the high-ranking public officials appointed by President Yoon Suk-yeol with the same standards that you have applied to me and my family. I want nothing more and nothing less. Through intensive media coverage and expeditious and extensive search and seizure by the Special Prosecutor’s Office, the records of internships and extracurricular activities in school report cards, as well as the awards and certificates received by the candidates’ children must be thoroughly scrutinized; the times and durations of their activities as well as the evaluations and records of activities must also be thoroughly inspected to confirm that they are all accurate to the T. Only then could it be said that what happened to my family was not selective justice. It would be even better if the National Assembly required full disclosure of all such records of high-ranking public officials appointed by the president through legislation or a political agreement.
If inconsistencies are found as a result of the investigation, not only should the candidate not be appointed a minister, but also the candidate and his/her spouse must be investigated, and their child’s admission must be canceled. Only in this way may some semblance of balance be achieved.
As a jurist, I have humbly followed and will continue to follow the consequences of the rule of law. However, this rule of law should also apply to the president-elect Yoon Suk-yeol and his family, as well as the candidates for high-ranking public office nominated by him.
PS: 1. My daughter’s high school record was illegally leaked, but the police did not find the source and the investigation into the matter was dropped.
2. According to an investigation conducted by Sherlock, the Ministry of Education discovered over 800 papers co-authored by professors with their children, who were minors, but has not taken any follow-up action. Among them, four children who were in high school at the time were listed as co-authors on SCI papers written by their parents, who were professors at Seoul National University; they went on to medical school or medical graduate school and are currently practicing medicine.
— Cho Guk, former Minister of Justice, April 7, 2022.
As the investigation against Cho Guk’s daughter had been led by the then prosecutor general Yoon Suk-yeol, a reporter asked for the president-elect’s opinion about the outcome of the investigation. His spokesperson replied:
I’m a bit confused as to why you’re asking the president-elect. Is that question acceptable to you? It is not for the president-elect to answer, since it is about the child of Minister Cho Guk. This isn’t the president-elect’s position on the issue of Cho Min, […] but I would like to emphasize once again that the new Yoon Suk-yeol administration will do our best to avoid taking any actions that are not in line with fairness and common sense, like those in the previous Moon Jae-in administration have done in various processes, disappointing the people.
— Bae Hyun-jin, spokesperson for the president-elect, April 7, 2022.
While some believe that the outcome brought justice, others believe that the Cho family was an unfortunate target of excessive public scrutiny. A petition to Cheong Wa Dae asking that Pusan National University revoke their decision to cancel Cho Min’s admission has received over 90,000 signatures in the four days since it was posted.