By Park Ji-won
The Korean Catholic Church has come under fire for allegations of crimes committed by its clergymen recently, facing criticism for its poor handling of the case.
Local broadcaster MBC reported last week that a priest, who is also the head of the Catholic Church-run SOS Children's Villages Korea, a non-government organization providing care for those children without family care, will be suspended from duty from Aug. 6 after it made public that he was recently investigated by the police in Daegu as a suspect in a sexual harassment case involving two female staff members of the organization in 2018.
The facility was founded in Daegu in 1965, and later expanded its operations to Seoul and Suncheon in South Jeolla Province. Until the mid-1980s, the facility was run to support Korean War orphans but later expanded its scope to all children in need of parental care.
The priest is suspected of touching two staff members in 2018 during a company dinner. The priest reportedly touched one employee's waist and thigh and the other employee on an unspecified body part while saying, "I love women," to the latter.
One of the victims reported the incident to the facility, but the priest reportedly denied the allegation. The woman ended up quitting her job after failing to become a full-time employee there.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Daegu confirmed what is said in the report of MBC and said it will take further steps after the police investigation.
Criticism has arisen against the Church for this incident and another recent crime by a priest.
On July 7, another priest was fined 3 million won ($2,620) for verbally and physically assaulting a police officer in a karaoke bar. He did so after being denied entry, as he had tried to bring a hostess into the premises. In response, the Catholic Archdiocese of Daegu suspended the priest from duty.
A group of 34 civic organizations in Daegu raised the possibility in a joint statement that the Catholic Archdiocese of Daegu may have neglected its duty to properly handle the cases and urged the church and the police to ensure that justice is served.
"Based on the attitude of the Catholic Archdiocese of Daegu, the strict atmosphere of the facility, it is hard to believe that the archdiocese did not know what happened about the priest allegedly sexually harassing staff … There should be no safe haven for such crimes. We urge the police to carry out a thorough investigation."