Skip to main content

South Korean president fires spokesman over 'unsavory incident' in U.S.

By Jethro Mullen and Soo Bin Park, CNN
updated 8:33 PM EDT, Sun May 12, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The president's office says a spokesman "damaged the dignity of the country"
  • It took place during President Park Geun-hye's official visit to the United States
  • Police in Washington say they are investigating a report of sexual abuse

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) -- President Park Geun-hye of South Korea has dismissed her press spokesman after concluding that he was involved in an "unsavory incident" during a state visit to the United States, her office said.

Police in Washington said they were investigating a report of sexual abuse.

The spokesman, Yoon Chang-jung, "showed inappropriate conduct as a high-ranking official and damaged the dignity of the country by being personally involved in an unsavory incident," the chief presidential press secretary, Lee Nam-ki, said in a statement Thursday from Los Angeles.

The embarrassing affair adds an awkward coda to the five-day visit to the United States by Park, South Korea's first female president. During the high-profile trip, her first since taking office in February, she met with President Barack Obama to discuss the recent tensions with North Korea along with other strategic and economic issues.

The South Korean Embassy in Washington now is investigating the incident, Lee said without providing further details on what Yoon is alleged to have done. The presidential office in Seoul didn't respond to repeated requests for further comment.

Asked about the matter, Gwendolyn Crump, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, said, "We are investigating the report of a misdemeanor sexual abuse. We cannot comment further, at this time."

In South Korea, the Democratic Party, the leading opposition group, called for Park to publicly apologize over the matter on Friday, the semiofficial news agency Yonhap reported.

Park and her office "should deeply reflect on their appointment of the wrong personnel and apologize to the people," said Kim Kwan-young, the party's senior spokesman, according to Yonhap.

Park is due to arrive back in Seoul on Friday evening.

Journalist Soo Bin Park reported from Seoul, and CNN's Jethro Mullen reported and wrote from Hong Kong. CNN's Alison Harding in Washington and Judy Kwon in Hong Kong contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:23 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wilson Raj Perumal tells CNN how he rigged World Cup games: "I was giving orders to the coach."
updated 5:20 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Our whole solar system appears to be inside a searing gas bubble, scientists say.
updated 8:02 PM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
One journalist murdered, another still being held by ISIS -- a ransom negotiator talks to CNN about the delicate business of trying to get a hostage home alive.
updated 10:02 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
The accidental killing of a gun instructor raises an "absurd question," writes Mel Robbins.
updated 8:55 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
ISIS has made surprise gains in Iraq and Syria in recent months, but may begin to suffer setbacks on the battlefield.
updated 2:44 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
The fear of Russian invasion is receding but peace may still be tricky to find.
updated 8:28 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Was a police officer justified in shooting and killing Michael Brown?
updated 12:54 PM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Don't like the country you live in? Meet the people who created their own "micronations."
updated 5:57 PM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
The signs exist that indicate U.S. airstrikes into Syria are on the way.
updated 5:46 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
We asked you what you would like to know about Ebola. Experts answer some of your most common questions and concerns.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT