In a shocking revelation, a former USC student, Yi Youn Kim, filed a lawsuit on April 20, accusing tenured Marshall School of Business professor Choong Whan Park, widely known as C.W. Park, of sexual assault spanning a three-year period. The lawsuit also implicates USC, claiming the university knew of Park’s alleged misconduct and discriminated against Kim. As the legal battle unfolds, it raises crucial questions about the university’s response, the broader cultural implications, and the need for institutional change.
Park, a professor of marketing hired by USC in 1997, served as the director of the Global Branding Center from 2001 until his retirement at the end of the spring 2021 semester. The lawsuit alleges that USC was aware of Park’s targeting of female Korean student assistants for harassment, abuse, and discrimination. In response, USC denies the allegations, stating that they did not commit the acts described in the complaint for discriminatory or retaliatory motives.
Allegations and Responses
Kim, a Korean American woman hired as Park’s student assistant in 2016, claims that Park made nonconsensual sexual advances, initiating a pattern of harassment that continued over several years. Park, now 76, is accused of sexually assaulting and harassing Kim on multiple occasions. USC’s response, provided on June 16, denies any wrongdoing and cites the confidentiality of personnel matters.
Cultural Challenges and Ongoing Impact
The lawsuit suggests that Park, as an older Korean man, exploited cultural difficulties to prevent Kim from reporting the alleged misconduct. The plaintiff filed a formal complaint in October 2020, triggering an internal investigation that reportedly uncovered similar allegations from at least three other young women of Korean descent. However, the details of the investigation remain undisclosed, raising questions about transparency and accountability.
The Alleged Serial Predator
The lawsuit paints a disturbing picture of Park as a “serial sexual predator” with a history of similar misconduct dating back to 2011. Three additional women, identified as Victim 1, Victim 2, and Victim 3, have come forward with claims mirroring Kim’s experiences. The lawsuit asserts that Park’s actions were known to the university, creating an environment where such behavior could persist.
Institutional Culture and Accountability
The allegations against Park bring attention to the broader culture within USC’s Marshall School of Business. An associate professor has previously highlighted a troubling culture of harassment, and the lawsuit indicates that complaints against Park might not be isolated incidents. The need for institutional change and a safer environment for students is underscored by Kim’s legal action.
As all parties prepare to meet with a judge on September 17, the C.W. Park USC lawsuit sheds light on a deeply concerning issue within the university. The case prompts reflection on the responsibility of institutions to create safe spaces for students, the importance of transparency in investigations, and the urgency for cultural change to prevent further instances of harassment. The outcome of this legal battle may well shape the future of USC’s commitment to a secure and inclusive academic environment.