After a fierce game of truth or lie, ignited by the Chosun Ilbo's September 6 report on Prosecutor General Chae Dong-wook's alleged extramarital relationship for the last decade and an 11 year-old son, Chae resigned on the 30th, ending his term in just 180 days. The scandal that created a nationwide stir is about to come to an end, as Chae also turned his course and dropped the correction-demanding lawsuit he had filed against the Chosun Ilbo. Almost all of Korea's media outlets from air wave to cable networks and from top newspapers to various on and offline magazines took part in this yellow journalism madness, scrambling to carry stories about Lim, the alleged concubine, her letter to the Chosun Ilbo, and evidences from people around them. Although the leading and opposition parties argued against each other over whether it is a conspiracy, the public's interest was all about the existence of this illegitimate child itself.
As of October 3, the controversy has subsided. However, it seems like the ridiculous fight over Chae’s alleged love child will resume in no time, as the Chosun Ilbo once again disclosed a woman’s startling revelations about the scandal right after Chae's resignation. The woman, who had worked 4 years and 7 months as a housemaid for Lim, spilled out preposterous stories, and many readers, especially women, were extremely outraged at the anachronistic stories about keeping a concubine, which would only seem possible in the Choseon Dynasty. But giving it a deeper thought, a question arises: how many of the public figures today would be free from such controversy over keeping an extramarital child? Very few, I'd assume.
Late president Park Jung Hee of the 5th Republic once said that men of power shouldn't be questioned about what happens in their bedroom. Indeed, many of the nation's former presidents have come under fire for love child controversy. The most shocking story was when a 50-something man surnamed Kim brought affiliation proceedings against former president Kim Young-sam. Seoul Family Court sided with Kim the plaintiff in February 2011, confirming the biological parental relation between the two. When the uppermost rulers are full of scandals, why not their high-ranking officials? We can’t, of course, accuse all members of the political circle of leading an unfaithful life. But the murder of Jeong In-sook, the heroin of the biggest sex scandal during the 3rd Republic, the rumor that her son was an illegitimate son of then-prime minister, and the court battle over alleged love child of Lee Man-hee, then-minister of environment all allude to the tragic fact that a distorted version of patriarchy is still deeply ingrained in Korea's political community and that power is too often based on dirty scandals and disrespect for humanity.
Lim vented in her letter about how tough life can be for a single mom in Korea, saying she "doesn't want others to look down on her.” She added that her only wish is for her son, whom she's “been raising despite all kinds of hardship, to lead a normal life as other kids without being shattered or victimized by this." Whether the kid really is or is not Chae's, many people would still sympathize with the mother's wish. On the other hand, it's not difficult to imagine the pain Chae's wife and daughter must be going through – the pain inflicted by their once “proud husband and father.”
Now that the sheer madness of the love child scandal has subsided, Chae, his family, and his alleged family with Lim remain as the sole victims. Meanwhile, the political community has already moved on, plunging into a different issue. No wonder politicians are called "cold-blooded."
The past few weeks remind me of over 2,000 Hanbok-clad Korean YWCA members marching down the streets of Myeong-dong in the 1960s, protesting that "politicians who keep concubines should never be elected to join the National Assembly." Half a century has passed since, but it seems that keeping an eye out and demanding the nation's officials to stay out of inappropriate relationships are still on the to-do list of Korea's women's community, which is already under attack from so many other things, for the sake of women’s rights deemed to be hit hard by such scandal anyhow.