SEOUL, May 10 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye's first official visit to the United States ended in one of the worst ways possible Friday with her spokesman being fired amid allegations that he had sexually assaulted a woman during the trip.
The allegations sparked public outrage in South Korea and dealt a serious blow to Park just as she was beginning to regain public confidence through her handling of tensions with North Korea and what appeared to be a successful five-day visit to the U.S.
"(He) completely poured cold water over the accomplishments of the U.S. visit," said one presidential official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "It's causing an extreme burden to state affairs."
In Washington, Park held a summit with U.S. President Barack Obama, delivered a speech at a joint session of the U.S. Congress and promoted investment opportunities in South Korea by traveling with a large business delegation that included Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee and Hyundai Motor Chairman Chung Mong-koo.
Far more damaging than anything else to Park's otherwise successful trip to the U.S., however, was the allegations that her spokesman, Yoon Chang-jung, had sexually assaulted a Korean-American woman in her early 20s at a hotel in Washington on Tuesday.
When the scandal was made public, Park was en route to Los Angeles which was her last stop in the U.S. Apparently recognizing the seriousness of the scandal, her office sacked the spokesman, saying that he had been involved in an "unsavory" incident.
Washington D.C. police said they are "investigating the report of a misdemeanor sexual abuse" by a 56-year-old male suspect. A police report said the suspect "grabbed her buttocks without her permission."
It did not identify the suspect, but the age matches that of the spokesman.
Details of the alleged incident have yet to emerge, but a posting on an online community of Korean-American women called on members to help the alleged victim, saying she was sexually assaulted by Yoon.
The alleged victim reportedly worked as an intern at the South Korean embassy in Washington to assist with duties related to the president's visit.
Yoon left Washington on Wednesday without accompanying Park to L.A. After arriving in Seoul on Thursday, he underwent questioning by the office of the senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, presidential officials said.
Presidential chief of staff Huh Tae-yeol met with other presidential staff to discuss an appropriate response to the scandal, they said.
Both the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) called for a thorough investigation into the case.
The DP called the scandal a "foreseeable tragedy" and demanded a public apology from the president. Even before the spokesman was picked for the job, critics questioned his ability to do the job.
"President Park and Cheong Wa Dae should deeply reflect on the drop in national status brought about by the wrong appointment of personnel and apologize to the people," DP spokeswoman Rep. Bae Jae-jeung said in a news briefing. Cheong Wa Dae is the name of South Korea's presidential office.
"The presidential chief of staff and senior presidential press secretary should also be held responsible," she said.
The ruling party also expressed "strong regret" and called for a thorough investigation.
"If the allegations of sexual assault are true, it is something that cannot and should not happen," said Saenuri spokeswoman Rep. Min Hyun-joo.
"Not a single speck of doubt must be left with the public through a thorough investigation of the facts and the truth," she said.
Park, who took office in late February, came under fire during the early weeks of her term when a number of her nominees for senior government posts resigned in succession under pressure over allegations of ethical lapses and other problems.
She is scheduled to return home later Friday.
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