Ruling party lawmakers said to demand replacement of gender minister

SEOUL, Voices are growing among lawmakers of the ruling Democratic Party (DP) calling for the replacement of Minister of Gender Equality and Family Lee Jung-ok, who recently drew fire for insensitive remarks on next year’s Seoul and Busan mayoral by-elections, party officials said Friday.
A group of progressive DP lawmakers reportedly asked Cheong Wa Dae, the presidential office, earlier this week to replace Lee in the next Cabinet reshuffle, citing fierce criticism of Lee’s remarks by women’s and civic groups.
Lee triggered a controversy during a parliamentary session on Nov. 5, when she described the upcoming by-elections in Seoul and Busan, where mayoral seats became vacant this year after two DP-affiliated mayors were accused of sexual misconduct, as an “opportunity for people to collectively learn about gender sensitivity.”
She made the controversial comparison when asked by an opposition lawmaker to comment on the huge expenses, estimated at 83.8 billion won (US$75 million), to cover the by-elections. Her response was interpreted as meaning that the expenses can serve as a public education fee regarding the gender-related issues.
The late Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon took his own life in July after a former secretary filed a sexual abuse complaint against him, while former Busan Mayor Oh Ke-don resigned in April amid sexual harassment allegations and is now undergoing a court trial. The expression “gender sensitivity” has been frequently cited by local court judges to take into account contextual background or possible gender equality issues when reviewing criminal sexual assault cases.
“Some DP lawmakers met Wednesday and shared the view that Minister Lee should be replaced as soon as possible. They also agreed that Lee should be included in the next Cabinet reshuffle as women’s and civic groups have fiercely protested her remarks,” a DP lawmaker said.
Another DP lawmaker said Lee’s spontaneous resignation is also an option, expressing concern about her remarks’ possible negative impact on the by-elections slated for April 7 next year.
The lawmakers also said the DP leadership appears to share the same concern.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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