South Korean President Park Geun-hye apologizes for scandal during US trip


South Korean President Park Geun-hye attends a welcoming luncheon with California Governor Jerry Brown and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at Getty House on May 9, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.


Kevork Djansezian

South Korean President Park Geun-hye has offered an apology for a sex scandal that marred her trip to the US last week that included meetings with President Barack Obama.

Park fired her spokesman Yoon Chang-jung amid allegations that he sexually harassed a South Korean in her 20s temporarily hired by the embassy in Washington to assist with duties related to the president's visit.

Park's office said only that Yoon was involved in an "unsavory" act.

South Korea's senior presidential press secretary Lee Nam Ki announced Yoon's dismissal, saying Yoon was "personally involved in an unsavory incident" that "hurt the national dignity."

However, the incident was made more serious by the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department's decision to further investigate the incident.

A police report, citing a complaint from the woman, stated that a 56-year-old male "grabbed her buttocks without her permission" at a hotel bar near the White House sometime between 9:30 and 10 p.m. last Tuesday.

Gwendolyn Crump, director of the department's Office of Communications, told Yonhap News Agency by e-mail:

"We are investigating the report of a misdemeanor sexual abuse. We cannot comment further, at this time."

She was responding to an inquiry over whether the department had received any report of a sexual assault involving a "South Korean official" with the name "Yoon Chang-jung."

More from GlobalPost: South Korean president fires spokesman for allegedly molesting embassy intern in DC

According to The New York Times, the scandal "completely overshadowed the visit," with Korean media describing a "national humiliation."

Park said at the beginning of her weekly meeting with senior secretaries this week:

"I am sorry that an unsavory incident, which a public servant should never be involved in, occurred near the end of my visit to the US and greatly disappointed the people."

Park has come under fire for appointing people with questionable ethical standards for important posts, with at least a half dozen appointees already forced to quit amid charges of such misdeeds as tax evasion.

There is also "mounting frustration" in South Korea over the "widespread tendency among men, especially those in positions of power, to trivialise the harassment of young women," the Times wrote.