Seoul voters go to polls after abuse scandal

SEOUL (AFP) – Voters in Seoul went to the polls yesterday to pick a successor to the mayor of South Korea’s capital, who took his own life following allegations of sexual abuse.

South Korea’s ruling Democratic party picked a woman candidate to defend his seat, but several of its top figures have lined up to defend late mayor Park Won-soon.

Female MPs have also privately denigrated Park’s accuser, in what campaigners said shows how low a priority the progressive party of President Moon Jae-in – who has called himself a feminist – puts on women’s rights.

A similar by-election was also being held in the country’s second city Busan, after its Democratic mayor was also accused of harassment and resigned.

Following Park’s death in July, when he left a hand-written apology on his desk, Seoul’s Democrat-controlled city administration held an official five-day mourning ceremony.

But in January, the National Human Rights Commission confirmed he had committed sexual misconduct, and his victim told reporters last month, “If the (next) mayor is elected from the party that hurt me, I fear that I will not be able to return” to normal life.

Party figures who have defended Park include Lim Jong-seok, Moon’s former chief of staff. President of Korea Women’s Political Solidarity Kwon Soo-hyun told AFP, “These people have absolutely no interest when it comes to gender issues and women’s rights.

“This problem will not get fixed simply by having a woman candidate for the by-election.”