The Korea Herald


Yoon’s special adviser in hot water over son's alleged bullying

By Kim So-hyun

Published : June 9, 2023 - 12:09

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Lee Dong-kwan (Yonhap) Lee Dong-kwan (Yonhap)

Lee Dong-kwan, special adviser to President Yoon Suk Yeol for external relations, whom Yoon is reportedly considering as the next head of the Korea Communications Commission, has raised controversy as allegations over his son having bullied a fellow high school student in 2011 have reemerged.

Lee said some of the allegations made by the media and members of the main opposition party were “distorted and exaggerated” as he went over details of his son's school violence case in an eight-page statement sent out to reporters on Thursday.

About the claims that his son forced a classmate to bang his head 300 times on a desk; threw clipped fingernails on a bed in the dormitory where the alleged victim resided; and told the alleged victim to fight another student in the dormitory hallway, Lee said it was true there was a “physical struggle” between his son and the alleged victim, but claimed it was not “one-sided.”

Lee’s son was later transferred to another high school in 2012 upon the school’s decision, which is the eighth-heaviest of nine levels of punishment, after expulsion, under the law on school violence prevention.

Lee said his son and the alleged victim reconciled, and the latter asked their teacher not to punish Lee’s son, which means it was a case of light punishment under the rules, but it appears that the school’s guidance committee recommended a transfer to set an example, citing “multiple lawyers with expertise in school violence.”

Lee said his son and the other student still keep in touch after graduating from high school, which would be “unimaginable” had he been a victim of bullying by his son.

Lee, one of the key aides to conservative former President Lee Myung-bak, who served as his spokesperson and senior secretary for public relations from 2008 to 2010, and special advisor on media in 2011, denied accusations that he meddled with the case.

According to news reports, Hana Academy Seoul received reports of school violence allegedly committed by Lee’s son from two students between 2011 and March 2012.

The Committee for Countermeasures against School Violence, which convenes meetings in cases of serious school violence in a school district, was not convened as the two sides reconciled and the victim didn’t want Lee’s son to be punished.

There have been news reports that Lee’s son also punched four other students multiple times for “practice” after learning boxing, but Lee said what has been circulated in the press and social media as “serious school violence” were "groundless" claims.

About suspicions that he exercised his influence in order to cover up the case by calling the then chief of the foundation that ran the school, Kim Seung-yoo, Lee said he did call Kim, but he claims it was only to ask him what was happening.

Kim at the time told Lee that he would find out through the principal, but he never heard from Kim again, Lee said.

Lee said he had refrained from making official responses to the accusations as he thought it would be inappropriate to do so as he has not been named as a candidate for public office, adding that he could no longer keep quiet when even the main opposition party leader is continuing to make indiscriminate claims.

Main opposition Democratic Party of Korea leader Lee Jae-myung said on Friday it would be normal for Lee Dong-kwan to step down as special adviser to the president.