Ex-mayor in Busan, S. Korea, jailed 3 years for sex abuse

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The former mayor of South Korea’s second-largest city was jailed Tuesday on a three-year sentence for sexually abusing two city employees during his tenure.

The lawyers of Oh Keo-don didn’t immediately return calls and text messages asking whether they plan to appeal. Busan’s district court also ordered Oh to receive counseling and banned him from jobs at child welfare organizations and disability facilities for five years following the end of his jail term.

Oh, who was seen as a key ally of Busan-raised President Moon Jae-in, stepped down as the city’s mayor in April 2020 after admitting he had “unnecessary physical contact” with a female public servant who accused him of groping her in his office. The unidentified woman said Oh’s behavior caused her post traumatic stress disorder, according to her lawyers.

Oh was later separately accused of making unwanted sexual contact with another female city employee in 2018.

Oh’s lawyers insisted it was unclear his behavior was responsible for the woman’s PTSD. They pleaded for leniency, saying that the 72-year-old Oh made positive contributions to society and was dealing with health issues that cause cognitive impairment.

The court rejected such claims, saying it was clear that Oh abused his status while harassing the women and that his actions weren’t accidental or one-off in nature.

“Even based on materials submitted by the defendant, it’s difficult to believe that the defendant has a degree of cognitive impairment that would have influenced his actions when he was committing the crimes,” the court said in a statement.

Moon’s Democratic Party has been rocked by sexual misconduct allegations surrounding some of its major politicians.

Former Chungcheong Province Governor Ahn Hee-jung, once seen as a presidential hopeful, is currently in prison for raping his former secretary. Park Won-soon, then Seoul’s mayor, was found dead of an apparent suicide in July 2020 after a female employee accused him of extended sexual harassment.

Moon’s liberal party lost the mayoral by-elections in both Seoul and Busan to conservative opposition candidates in April, a huge setback that analysts say possibly set the stage for an unpredictable presidential vote in March next year.

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