SEOUL, South Korea - South Korean President Park Geun-hye fired her top spokesman for what her office called a "disgraceful incident" during Park's state visit to Washington, after South Korean media reported the official allegedly sexually groped a young woman.
The firing of the spokesman, Yoon Chang-jung, was announced after Yoon abruptly broke off from the presidential delegation visiting Washington and returned home earlier this week, the New York Times reports. South Korean media reported that he left Washington in such a hurry that he did not pack his belongings in his hotel room.
Lee Nam-ki, President Park's senior press secretary and Yoon's boss, said that the spokesman was fired for an "unsavory act that was inappropriate for a high-ranking government official and damaged the national prestige."
South Korean journalists accompanying Park on her trip reported that Yoon was accused of unwanted sexual contact of a young woman hired as an intern at the South Korean Embassy in Washington, and that the incident occurred while he was drinking, the Times reported.
The scandal blindsided President Park just as her office was touting her Washington trip as a glowing success. She held a summit meeting with President Barack Obama on Tuesday and spoke before the U.S. Congress the following day.
But while she was on her way back to South Korea on Friday, a political firestorm was brewing at home.
Park and her office "should deeply reflect on their appointment of the wrong personnel and apologize to the people," said Kim Kwan-young, a spokesman at the main opposition Democratic Party, calling for a thorough investigation of the case that he said "caused national shame," the Times reported.
Washington's Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Officer Araz Alali said the department is investigating a report of misdemeanor sexual abuse, but he could not comment further. A police report obtained by The Associated Press states that a woman told police that a man "grabbed her buttocks without her permission" on Tuesday night at the W Washington D.C. hotel. The police report does not describe the circumstances or identify the accuser or suspect, except to say that the suspect is 56. Yoon, who is 56, wasn't named in the report.
The Blue House said officials in its embassy in Washington were investigating, but Yoon couldn't be reached for comment.