Court blocks release of documentary on former Seoul Mayor's sexual harassment case

An illustration of the late former Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon and a documentary film based on his life. [JOONGANG ILBO]

A Seoul court banned the screening of a documentary film of the late former Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, who sexually harassed his employee before he died in 2020.

The Seoul Southern District Court on Wednesday granted the injunction filed by the Seoul Metropolitan Government and Kim Jae-ryun, a lawyer who represents the employee, on Aug. 1 to ban the screening of the film "First Defense" in theaters.

Park, who served as Seoul's mayor from 2011 to 2020, sexually harassed his assistant on numerous occasions from 2016 to 2018. He died by suicide at Mount Bukak in central Seoul in 2020.

The court's decision prohibits the film's sale, screening and distribution.

The dignity of the victim comes before the freedom of expression, the court said, citing rulings by the National Human Rights Commission and Seoul Administrative Court that found Park's actions toward the former employee constitute sexual harassment.

"It is hard to believe the portrayals in the film are true, which are derogatory and cause harm to the victim's dignity and reputation," the court said.

The film is based on a book titled "Birth of Tragedy" (2021) written by Son Byung-kwan, an Oh My News reporter, which came under fire for defending Park's actions regarding harassment.

The film's director, Kim Dae-hyun, and the production staff said in a statement they will appeal the decision.

The production started right after the book's release, Kim said. The film was initially set for release in August.