South Korean President's Spokesman Sacked Over Sexual Assault Allegations

The spokesman of the South Korean president, Yoon Chang-jung, was fired on May 10, 2013 over allegations that he sexually assaulted an embassy intern during the president’s high-profile trip to the United States.

This unprecedented diplomatic fiasco stayed at the top of internet searches on major South Korean portals for two consecutive days and spawned heated discussions, even anger, on a variety of social networking sites.

The case first broke on Missy USA, a community website for Korean women living in the US. A screen shot [ko] of one Missy USA's users crying out for help quickly spread online, and within a strikingly short period of time, lead to the firing of one of the most powerful officials in the administration.

Intense online discussions followed, mostly angry rants against the spokesman, as well as numerous parody photos that subsequently went viral. The comment section of the book review page for Yoon's book “Citizens Ruin Politics” was likewise inundated with sarcastic comments.

Photoshopped/Padody image of Yoon grabbing female butts.

Photoshopped/Padody image of Yoon grabbing female buttocks. Author of the image unclear (Image spread without acknowledging of the author). The Yonhap News watermark was attached by the unknown author as a way to mock Yonhap's recent photoshop fiasco.

Yoon's comically hurried escape from the US, as well as complications caused by the fact that the victim is a US citizen raised the profile of the case to unexpected heights.

Some reports even re-enacted Yoon's runaway [ko] in detail and wrote that as soon as Yoon realized the severity of the situation, he took a cab to the airport, without packing his things, and fled to South Korea.

Since the victim is believed [ko] to be a Korean-American, legal issues may arise as to the jurisdiction in which he will be judged. According to a local news report [ko], Yoon can technically be judged in both courts; the alleged crime took place on US soil, so the case is now being investigated and prosecuted according to US law, which follows the territorial principle.

But it is technically possible that the investigation will move to South Korea which is governed by the nationality principle. Several online commentators have stressed that Yoon needs to be brought to trial in the US, in a system which is believed to be more harsh to sex offenders and less likely to be influenced by Yoon's power.

@francesco_js: 한 50년 정도만 때려도 창중이는 미쿡 귀신이 되겄네.그랬으면 좋겠다.자국민을 상대로 창녀네 종북이네 하던 미친 새끼가 그렇게 되어야 그나마 작은 희망이라도 생길거 같다.

@francesco_js: I really wish U.S court to sentence Chang-jung to long prison terms (like 50 years), so he would eventually [die in the cell] and turn into a ghost haunting the prison. Only after I see this crazy dude gets enough punishment, I would be able to have hope again. After all, he used to call his own people ‘whore’ and ‘pro-North’[North Korean sympathizers]. [*click this link for explanation on Yoon's ‘whore’ and ‘pro-North’ remarks]

A Twitter user called Roh Jeong-tae (@JeongtaeRoh) came up with a creative solution that would solve both Yoon's case and dispel public discontent on the relatively light punishments received by American soldiers who committed crimes in South Korea – by exchanging courts. His tweet was retweeted over 536 times.

@JeongtaeRoh: 성범죄 저지르고 미국으로 토낀 주한미군 범죄자와 윤창중을 교환함으로써 양국이 서로 각자의 법 체계를 존중한다는 것을 확인하고 한미동맹을 더욱 공고히 다지는 계기로 삼으면 좋겠다.

@JeongtaeRoh: By exchanging U.S. soliders who committed crimes in South Korea with Yoon Chang-jung who ran away [from U.S police] after his sexual assault, the two countries could acknowledge mutual respect on other’s legal system, and use this as a chance to straighten the alliance between the two countries.

Yoon, an extreme right-winger, is a controversial figure even among conservatives and has constantly drawn sharp criticism for his harsh, defamatory attacks on liberals. Initial reactions to the incident seemed to confirm old fault lines with many saying it came as “no surprise” [ko]. One tweet read:

@sjs1205jazzboy: 창중이가 발목에 이상한거 달고 다니게 생겼네~ 어찌 뇌가 좀 이상하다 싶어 불안했는데 역시 폭탄이었어![…]

@sjs1205jazzboy: Chang-jung will now start wearing a weird device in his ankle [referring ankle bracelet for sex offenders]. I was bit worried as it seems he has a very dysfunctional brain, and as expected, he turned out to be a human bomb.

Many users pointed out that such revelation were only possible [ko] because the crime took place outside the country and spread quickly over social media. The tweet below has been retweeted over 245 times:

@WainUnions: 웃긴 얘기지만, 피해 여성이 “미국 시민권자” 여서 정말 다행이라고 생각합니다. “한국 국적자” 였으면 아마 과거가 다 까발려지고 막 옛날에도 남자들에게 꼬리치고 다녔고 그날도 같이 술을 마시면서 동의를 했니 어쩌니 하고 넘어가려 했을텐데.

@WainUnions: This may sound ridiculous, but I think it was a bit of a relief that the victim was “U.S. citizenship holder”. If the victim were Korean, they would have just covered up the case by unearthing and spreading every detail about her past [private life] online, to claim that she was one who used to flirt with guys and she may have consented while drinking with him.

On the other hand, some extreme right-wing groups have conjured up conspiracy theories in defense of Yoon, to which users like @SeokhyungLee and @AngelinoKim reacted by saying:

@SeokhyungLee: 윤창중이 음모에 걸린것같단다.미시usa는 종북단체 란다.인턴여성은 이정희의사주를 받아 창중이를 음모에 빠트렸단다.ㅎㅎ일베놈들 대단하다[…]

@SeokhyungLee: Some claim that Yoon has been trapped in a conspiracy plot and the Missy USA site is a ‘pro-North’ (North Korean sympathizer) group. And the female intern (the victim), was directed by the mastermind Lee Jung-hee (progressive, female politician) to trap him. What a theory, those Ilbe (name of the extreme right-wing site) freaks. Lol.

@AngelinoKim: 지금 윤창중 관련 칼럼에다 “젖가슴도 아닌 겨우 엉덩이다”라고 한 모 보수성향 매체 편집위원이란 사람, 직업이 ‘중학교 교사’랍니다…이건 뭐 살다살다 별…” 어느 학교 중학교 교사인가요? 알립시다!!!

@AngelinoKim: A columnist in one conservative media outlet, wrote in a column that “it was not even bosoms, but merely butts [that Yoon grabbed]”. That columnist is found out to be a ‘junior high school teacher’. What the heck is going on here? We need to find out and notify others in which school he teaches.

Other online commentators lamented the fact that sexual assaults by powerful politicians are quite frequent.

@nemomaru: 도망 창중의 역겨운 짓거리가 놀랍고 믿을 수 없어 참담하지만…이런 일이 여전히 아무 죄책감없이 흔히 일어나는 일 임이 더 참담한 일이다.

@nemomaru: The ‘runaway’ Chang-jung’s disgusting deed is just unbelievable and deplorable. But what is more lamentable is that such things still happens without the assaulter feeling any guilty about it.


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