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Local leader steps down after assault in Canada

Jan 09,2019
After the vice chairman of the local council of Yecheon County, North Gyeongsang, was charged with assault on an overseas trip, he publicly apologized for the incident and resigned on Friday.

Yecheon County Council’s Vice Chairman Park Jong-chul, a member of the Liberty Korea Party (LKP), allegedly assaulted a tour guide in Toronto on Dec. 23.

According to the Yecheon Council, nine council members, along with five council secretariat members, traveled from the United States to Canada from Dec. 20 to 29, 2018.

On Dec. 23, after dinner at a Toronto restaurant, Park allegedly punched the tour’s travel guide. He was said to have been drunk at the time.

The bus driver quickly reported the attack to the police and Park was held under police investigation. He was not detained due to a request from the travel guide, who compromised by receiving settlement money of approximately $5,000.

Park held a press conference to publicly apologize to the guide soon thereafter after word about the assault got out.

“I thoroughly apologize for everything I have done and admit my faults. I will resign from the vice chairmanship and would leave it up to the LKP regarding a disciplinary decision on me,” Park said at the Yecheon Council last Friday.

Suspicion and criticism about the trip to North America are continuing to grow, however.

The council members have also been accused of inappropriate behavior, such as pressing the guide to take them to a hostess bar. There were also complaints about the members being drunk and too loud from other guests at the accommodations the members were staying in. Many are also criticizing the trip for including too much tourism.

The tour group traveled to tourist destinations such as the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, Niagara Falls, Petit-Champlain Street, Abraham Plains in Quebec and a famous filming site for the Korean drama “Guardian: The Lonely and Great God.”

In their defense, the council members said they visited these sites to “investigate how the natural environment was preserved and the development of tourist attractions, understand each site’s diverse welfare policies and seek new management plans that fulfill the needs of regional circumstances.”

The public’s anger and criticism still hasn’t died down despite the explanation and Park’s resignation.

Hwalbindan, a conservative civic group, said Sunday that “it is time to put the brakes on so-called overseas business trips that are nothing but leisure tours.”

They also added that, “we are also pressing charges on members of the council who reportedly displayed inappropriate behavior during this trip. We cannot allow such council members to be the representatives of our county.”

The police will also investigate the additional complaints filed by the civic group and verify whether the council members tried to go to a hostess bar.

BY KIM JUNG-SEOK, LEE HAE-SUN [lee.haesun@joongang.co.kr]