Former Blue House spokesman Yoon Chang-jung, as is probably known to most readers of this blog, allegedly celebrated President Park’s up-until-that-moment successful visit to Washington by getting drunk and sexually assaulting a 21 year old Korean-American female who had been hired to work on summit-related tasks. Reportedly when the woman returned to her hotel room and recounted to her roommate what had just happened, the roommate called the police. According to some accounts a confrontation ensued in which South Korean officials tried to get the women to drop charges or otherwise refuse to cooperate with the police. (Reportedly, the roommate, who was employed by the Korean Cultural Center, a facility associated with the embassy, has quit her job, though again there is some dispute in the Korean press as to whether she was forced out, or whether her contract simply lapsed.) An informed source told me that when word got back to the President’s entourage that the DC Metropolitan police were looking for Yoon in connection with a possible charge of misdemeanor sexual assault one of the Blue House secretaries advised him to skip town. And that he reportedly did, driving immediately to Dulles Airport and purchasing a one-way ticket, leaving his belongings in his hotel room. It is likely that someone helped him, since it is standard procedure for members of official delegations to have their passports collected for processing by security, and he could not have left the country without his passport being returned.
It’s still not clear how this will end: it is unlikely that the US would seek extradition over a misdemeanor charge, though under US law, the alleged victim could sue the South Korean government for the actions of one of its agents even if that individual had diplomatic immunity. I wonder what the provisions are for “skipping town” in the current SOFA.
North Korea was predictably quick to run with the scandal, with the Rodong Sinmun commenting that President Park’s trip to Washington “would be remembered for a “shameful” act of indecency” while KCNA chimed in with some obligatory boilerplate along the lines that “Upset by this scandal, the puppet group sent him back to south Korea next day. It kicked up much fuss replacing the spokesman and making an apology to the people and the “president” on behalf of the senior secretary for publicity of Chongwadae” but one senses their hearts were not really in it. Maybe they remember an earlier incident in Atlanta when a visiting North Korean dignitary got embroiled in a possible case of child molestation which, like the Yoon case, was ascribed by some, including the alleged perpetrator, to “cultural differences.”
But to be clear, sexual misconduct, and the desire to duck its legal ramifications, is not the exclusive preserve of Koreans. Closer to home we have the case of Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, in charge of the Air Force’s program to prevent sexual assaults, who reportedly expressed his solidarity with our southern neighbors by getting drunk on Cinco de Mayo and groping a woman in a Crystal City, Virginia parking lot. Unfortunately for Lt. Col. Krusinski, from the photo it appears that the woman in question seems to have been adept in using a cell phone as a weapon in hand-to-hand combat, and the Arlington County police were nearby.
So far, this is merely embarrassing. Here’s the really bad part: according to reporting in the Washington Post, the Pentagon attempted to have Krusinski’s case shifted from the Arlington County courts to its own process, despite the fact that Krusinski was off-duty, the alleged assault did not occur on a military base, and from the reporting, the victim was a civilian. To her credit, Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington County and the City of Falls Church, Theo Stamos, declined to surrender the case.
So what are the takeaways?
First, watch your drinking: both of these guys were drunk when their alleged crimes were committed.
Second, stand up. It’s a stupid cliché but if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime. And that goes for the enablers as well. Yoon skipping town and the Pentagon’s attempt to enable Krusinski to skip town metaphorically are in some ways more damaging than actual crime. If Yoon had just stayed to face the music, he would have probably received a slap on the wrist and disappeared into history. As it now stands, President Park has a full-blown political scandal on her hands that has both weakened her at home and undermined her visit to Washington. As for Krusinski and the Pentagon, in the weeks since the alleged assault, DOD has practically gone into a meltdown with President Obama and Secretary Hagel calling for a stand down to get the military’s house in order.