SEOUL, South Korea -- President Park Geun-hye of South Korea has fired her spokesman for committing an "unsavory" act while he was traveling with her on her state visit to Washington, her office announced Friday, after South Korean media reported an allegation that the official had groped a young woman.
The firing of the spokesman, Yoon Chang-jung, was announced after Mr. Yoon abruptly broke off from the presidential delegation visiting Washington and returned home earlier this week. South Korean media reported that he left Washington in such a hurry that he did not pack his belongings in his hotel room.
The whereabouts of Mr. Yoon, 56, have not been known since his return home. Lee Nam-ki, Ms. Park's senior presidential press secretary and Mr. Yoon's immediate supervisor, said he was fired for an "unsavory act that was inappropriate for a high-ranking government official and damaged the national prestige."
South Korean journalists accompanying Ms. Park on her trip reported that Mr. Yoon had been accused of unwanted sexual contact with a young woman hired as an intern at the South Korean Embassy in Washington, and that the contact occurred while he was drinking.
A Washington police report on the case, copies of which were carried in South Korean media, did not mention Mr. Yoon by name, identifying the suspect only as a 56-year-old man. The victim reported that the suspect "grabbed her buttocks without her permission," the report said.
The scandal dealt a blow to Ms. Park just as her office had been billing her Washington trip as an impeccable success. She held a summit meeting with President Obama on Tuesday and spoke before Congress the next day.
But while she was on her way back to South Korea on Friday, a political storm was brewing at home.
Ms. Park and her office "should deeply reflect on their appointment of the wrong personnel and apologize to the people," said Kim Kwan-young, a spokesman for the main opposition Democratic Party, calling for a thorough investigation of a case that he said had "caused national shame."
Ms. Park's office had apologized earlier after at least half a dozen people nominated as ministers and vice ministers in her government were forced to withdraw from consideration amid questions over their ethical standards. As a result, her approval ratings plummeted before recovering in recent weeks as her defiance in confronting North Korea's nuclear threats proved popular.
Mr. Yoon, a former journalist and political columnist, has been the most controversial political appointee in Ms. Park's government. As an online political commentator, he used to carry out vicious attacks against Ms. Park's domestic enemies, once calling them "political prostitutes."
She first made him the spokesman for her transition team after her December election. Despite protests from the opposition, she stood by him once again when she made him a presidential spokesman.
On Friday, the main opposition party said the Washington scandal was a "foreseeable tragedy" because of Ms. Park's refusal to heed her critics.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.