A former USC business major is suing the university and a professor for whom she once worked as a student assistant, alleging he sexually harassed and assaulted her for three years despite being decades older than her and a married father of two, and that he did the same to other young women who held the same job.
The woman’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit names the professor, Choong Whan Park, as a co-defendant in the case that alleges sexual abuse and harassment, civil rights violations, failure to prevent discrimination and harassment, sexual assault and battery, gender violence, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress and negligence.
The plaintiff, who is in her early 20s and lives in San Jose, seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the suit filed Tuesday.
“This action seeks to vindicate the rights of (the plaintiff) and to recover damages … resulting from the repeated sexual assaults and ongoing sexual and racial harassment that she suffered at the hands of her professor and direct supervisor, Choong Whan Park, while she was a student and employee USC,” the suit alleges.
A USC statement says the university “takes allegations of sexual harassment very seriously, and when reports are filed, we have a comprehensive process for reviewing them and for providing supportive measures to involved parties through our Office for Equity, Equal Opportunity, and Title IX. We have not been served, so we are unable to provide any information related to this lawsuit.”
The plaintiff, who like the professor is Korean-American, was an undergraduate student at USC’s Marshall School of Business when she was hired by USC as Park’s student assistant in August 2016, according to her court papers.
“Over the course of the next three years, Park used his position of power and authority over (the plaintiff) to repeatedly sexually abuse, assault and harass her on USC’s premises and while in her capacity as a student/employee by (among other things) pinning (her) arms to her side and grabbing her jaw so that she was unable to escape,” the suit alleges.
The plaintiff alleges Park kissed her without her permission and groped her while telling her, “I can’t control myself around you.”
“Park committed these reprehensible acts of sexual assault and harassment against (the plaintiff) for the final time on April 24, 2019, just before (she) was finally able to escape Park through her graduation from USC,” the complaint alleges.
The plaintiff alleges at least three other women, all of whom were also young Korean-American undergraduate students attending USC’s Marshall School of Business, were additionally targeted by Park and repeatedly victimized by him while working as his student assistant.
The suit says the plaintiff is 5 feet, 6 inches tall and weighs 130 pounds, while Park, now 76, is just under 6 feet tall and weighs about 190 pounds.
Park — a tenured employee who was hired by USC in 1997 to serve as a professor of marketing at the Marshall School — was held out by the university to be a “trustworthy, safe and ethical professor, deserving of the trust and respect of the young undergraduate students attending USC and employed by USC,” the suit states.
The plaintiff alleges USC enabled Park to gain “complete, unfettered access to the young female students who worked as his student assistants … so that he could sexually abuse and harass them.”
She also alleges that USC received previous complaints about Park and therefore knew of his “dangerous propensity to sexually assault and harass USC’s young female students before it hired (the plaintiff) to serve as Park’s student assistant …” yet allowed him to serve as a direct supervisor to its young female student employees.
Park’s alleged abuses of the plaintiff have caused her to have difficulty interacting with others, including people with authority over her, according to her court papers, which say she has been “limited in her ability to meaningfully interact with others due to the trauma of this molestation and abuse.”
The woman’s employment and professional development also have been damaged, and she has been financially hurt as a result, the suit alleges.
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