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S Korea's 'disgraceful' spokesperson fired

10 May 2013, 14:58

Seoul — South Korean President Park Geun-Hye fired her chief spokesperson because of what her office said on Friday was a "disgraceful incident" during Park's trip to the United States, in what could be a domestic blow after an otherwise widely praised appearance in Washington.

Without elaborating, the presidential Blue House said on its website that unspecified actions by spokesperson Yoon Chang-Jung marred the government's dignity.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency cited a Washington police complaint as saying a 56-year-old man grabbed a woman's buttocks in a Washington hotel on Tuesday. Yoon, who is 56, wasn't named in the report.

An e-mail seeking police confirmation wasn't immediately answered. The Blue House said officials in its embassy in Washington were investigating, but Yoon couldn't be reached for comment.

Park travelled to Washington seeking a show of unity with her country's top ally at a time of high tension with rival North Korea, which unleashed a torrent of threats against Washington and Seoul in March and April. Her performance during a joint news conference with President Barack Obama and in a speech to the US Congress won praise in Washington, but her spokesperson's firing could cause her political problems in Seoul.

Park, who was inaugurated in late February, faced bitter opposition in her first month on the job to policy proposals and her choices for top government posts, many of whom withdrew amid corruption and other claims.

Yoon, a conservative columnist before joining Park's team last year and becoming spokesperson after the inauguration, was disliked by many progressives.

South Korea's political and social landscape is fiercely divided. And Park, who was elected in December, has long faced claims from opponents of being aloof and an "imperial" decision-maker. She is the eldest child of late President Park Chung-hee, who led South Korea for 18 years in the 1960s and '70s and is both denounced for human rights abuses and praised as a strong leader.

- AP


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