Potential presidential contender resigns in South Korea, after rape allegations

06 March, 2018, 20:06 | Author: Wade Massey
  • South Chungcheong Gov. An Hee-jung speaks during a meeting with his staff at the provincial government in Yesan

Ahn Hee-jung - who came second to current President Moon Jae-in in the contest for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination past year - is the most prominent figure to face abuse allegations during a swirling #MeToo movement in what is still a male-dominated society.

The decision by the leadership panel came less than two hours after his secretary for political affairs claimed in a TV interview that she was forced into having sexual intercourse with the governor four times over the past eight months.

Kim said she chose to come forward as the governor continued abusing her in February, even after the #MeToo movement began in earnest in Korea at the end of January. Poet Ko En has also been accused of sexually harassing female poets and authors. "After mentioning MeToo and saying sorry, he did it again, so I thought I would not be able to get out of this. I couldn't say no to him because I knew how much power he had", Kim said.

Following the TV interview, the ruling Democratic Party held an emergency meeting and expelled Ahn with immediate effect, Agence France-Presse reported on Tuesday. In a Facebook post, Ahn Hee-jung apologised to the woman for his "foolish behaviour" and announced his retirement from public life.

"Above all I deeply apologise to Kim Ji-eun, who has suffered because of me".

Former secretary, Kim Ji Eun, reportedly accused the governor of South Chungcheong province for sexually abusing her after she was hired in June 2017.

Ahn was relatively young in the South's ageing political scene, and likened by many to former US President Barack Obama during his bid for the presidential nomination.

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He has now resigned from the post and the allegations have also dashed his hopes of becoming the next President when Moon Jae-in finishes his term in 2022.

A governorship is seen as a springboard to a presidential bid.

On the same day Kim made her public accusation against An, the governor spoke about the #MeToo movement at a public engagement, publicly endorsing the campaign. "How can I escape from him?'" Kim said.

Police launched an inquiry into the allegations and said an official investigation will begin once relevant facts are confirmed. The scandal may come to bite Moon, who has urged stronger action against a growing number of sexual abuse cases in the country.

Choo apologized to the victim and the public. "An Hee-jung", she said with her eyes tearing up during the interview.

In the rigid hierarchy of Ahn's office, common among South Korean work environments, Kim felt she could not reject his orders or advances and said there were other victims who have yet to speak up.

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