City officials who listed 151 single women employees were sentenced to probation

By Dain Oh, The Readable
Jun. 13, 2023 7:50PM GMT+9

Two public officials who made a list of single women employees at their organization lost an appeal, retaining the original judgement of the court which sentenced them to two and three years’ probation respectively. The defendants allegedly crafted this list to “entertain” a male official who was working as a secretary under the office of the mayor.

The Suwon District Court in South Korea rejected the appeal, filed by both the plaintiffs and defendants, based on the defendants’ violation of a privacy law by exposing the personal information of 151 women employees at the Seongnam City Hall, according to multiple local news outlets on Tuesday.

This decision upheld the original verdict, which was contested by both parties, primarily regarding the sentence. The plaintiffs believed that a probation period of two to three years was too lenient while the defendants thought it was too severe.

In 2021, a former secretary who worked at the office of the mayor in the city of Seongnam reported to the Anti-Corruption Civil Rights Commission that two years prior, he had received a document containing a list of single women employees aged between 31 and 37 years old. In a 12-page document submitted to the commission, a total of 151 women’s personal information, such as headshots, names, ages, departments, and ranks, was laid out.

According to the whistleblower, two officials at the city hall made this document in 2019 to please him. The investigation revealed that an official at a human resource department received an order from a higher-ranking official at another department to make this list. When the list was completed after a month, the higher-ranking official sent the file to the secretary for the mayor, urging him to “choose one that he likes.”

Eun Su-mi, then the mayor of Seongnam, officially apologized after the controversy grew bigger, and reported to the police while opening an internal investigation. As for the reason that it took two years for the whistleblower to make a report, he claimed that “it was difficult to point out the problem at that time because of the other significant issues that had already been ignored by Mayor Eun.”

The higher-ranking official was sentenced to a year in prison and three years’ probation while the other defendant was sentenced to six months in prison and two years’ probation. “Although the defendants served the public for a long time and are expected to have disadvantages if convicted, the motive and content of their actions appears to have caused the victims feel considerable insults,” judged the court of appeals.

The cover image of this article was designed by Sangseon Kim.

Dain Oh is a distinguished journalist based in South Korea, recognized for her exceptional contributions to the field. As the founder and editor-in-chief of The Readable, she has demonstrated her expertise in leading media outlets to success. Prior to establishing The Readable, Dain was a journalist for The Electronic Times, a prestigious IT newspaper in Korea. During her tenure, she extensively covered the cybersecurity industry, delivering groundbreaking reports. Her work included exclusive stories, such as the revelation of incident response information sharing by the National Intelligence Service. These accomplishments led to her receiving the Journalist of the Year Award in 2021 by the Korea Institute of Information Security and Cryptology, a well-deserved accolade bestowed upon her through a unanimous decision. Dain has been invited to speak at several global conferences, including the APEC Women in STEM Principles and Actions, which was funded by the U.S. State Department. Additionally, she is an active member of the Asian American Journalists Association, further exhibiting her commitment to journalism.