In April 2021, the University of Southern California (USC) was rocked by a lawsuit filed by a former student, Yi Youn Kim, accusing tenured Marshall School of Business professor Choong Whan Park of sexual assault and harassment. The lawsuit painted a disturbing picture of a predator targeting vulnerable female students, particularly those of Korean descent, while USC failed to take adequate action despite prior complaints.
Kim’s lawsuit alleged that Park subjected her to a pattern of non-consensual touching, hugging, kissing, and groping over a three-year period, beginning when she was an undergraduate student assistant in his research lab. She further claimed that Park made inappropriate sexual comments about her body and threatened her academic and professional prospects if she did not comply with his advances.
The lawsuit also named USC as a defendant, alleging that the university had been aware of Park’s predatory behavior for years but failed to take appropriate action. This included prior complaints from other students and a 2018 investigation by the university’s Office of Equity and Diversity (OED) that found Park in violation of the university’s sexual harassment policy.
The University’s Response
USC initially denied the allegations against Park, claiming that the OED investigation had cleared him of wrongdoing. However, the university later acknowledged that the OED report had not been finalized and that it had not taken any disciplinary action against Park.
In the wake of the lawsuit, USC announced a series of reforms aimed at strengthening its sexual misconduct policies and procedures. These reforms included the creation of a new Title IX office, the expansion of sexual violence prevention training, and the appointment of a special investigator to review the handling of sexual misconduct complaints.
Park’s Retirement and Ongoing Legal Proceedings
Park retired from USC in May 2021, shortly after the lawsuit was filed. He has denied all allegations of wrongdoing, and the criminal case against him is still pending.
The civil lawsuit against Park and USC is also ongoing. In June 2021, three additional women came forward with allegations of sexual harassment against Park, further bolstering Kim’s claims.
A Pattern of Institutional Failure
The C.W. Park lawsuit has exposed a pattern of institutional failure at USC, where the university allegedly turned a blind eye to credible allegations of sexual misconduct for years. This failure to protect students has had a devastating impact on the lives of those who have been victimized.
The C.W. Park lawsuit is a stark reminder of the prevalence of sexual misconduct in higher education and the need for institutions to take strong and proactive measures to prevent and address it. USC’s handling of the Park case has been widely criticized, and the university has much work to do to regain the trust of its students and the public.
Q: What is the status of the criminal case against C.W. Park?
A: The criminal case against Park is still pending.
Q: What is the status of the civil lawsuit against C.W. Park and USC?
A: The civil lawsuit is still ongoing.
Q: What reforms has USC implemented in response to the C.W. Park lawsuit?
A: USC has implemented a series of reforms aimed at strengthening its sexual misconduct policies and procedures. These reforms include the creation of a new Title IX office, the expansion of sexual violence prevention training, and the appointment of a special investigator to review the handling of sexual misconduct complaints.
Q: What can students do to protect themselves from sexual misconduct?
A: Students should be aware of the resources available to them if they experience sexual misconduct. They should also report any incidents of sexual misconduct to the appropriate authorities.