Blue House investigation finds “issues” in MOFA’s response to sexual harassment allegations in New Zealand

Posted on : 2020-08-25 17:45 KST Modified on : 2020-08-25 17:45 KST
S. Korean foreign minister vows to take “appropriate measures”
South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha
South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha

The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) shared the findings of a Blue House investigation that found “issues” with its response to a case of alleged sexual harassment by a South Korean diplomat in New Zealand, and announced plans to take “appropriate measures in short order.”

Speaking in a teleconference with deputy ministers and director-generals on Aug. 24, Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha said, “An incident involving sexual improprieties that took place at the South Korean Embassy in New Zealand in late 2017 was raised during a telephone conversation between the two countries’ leaders on July 28, and has not only created a diplomatic burden for the South Korean government but also upset the South Korean public.”

“In connection with this incident, I received investigation findings from the Blue House that found ‘issues with the MOFA response process over the period from the incident’s occurrence to the two leaders’ conversation,’ and I plan to read it through and take appropriate measures in short order,” she continued.

The Blue House reportedly concluded from a recent audit of MOFA that the ministry did not investigate the matter sufficiently when it first became aware of the incident, and that it did not spatially separate the alleged victim and perpetrator. For the month since the issue was first made public late last month by local media in New Zealand, MOFA has maintained that its investigation and disciplinary action took place according to prescribed regulations and procedures.

Kang went on to order supplementary measures for related provisions and stronger internal education, declaring that MOFA would be “applying a more stringent standard toward sexual improprieties going forward, regardless of when they took place.” She also announced plans to “increase communication” with New Zealand so that “this incident can be resolved in a fair manner.”

Victim writes Moon asking for “fair and just process”

The victim, a New Zealand man, reportedly sent a letter to South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Aug. 19 stating that the MOFA’s investigation of the incident had been improper and asking for a “fair and just process.” The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) made a decision on July 30 to accept the victim’s petition. The diplomat in question, who had been working at an embassy in Southeast Asia after the incident in late 2017, was summoned back to South Korea on Aug. 3 and is currently subject to a headquarters (standby) order.

By Gil Yun-hyung, staff writer

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