New Straits Times
PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL FELLED BY RAPE CLAIM
Aide accuses S. Korean governor of raping her right after he praised #MeToo movement
AFORMER presidential contender stepped down as a provincial governor and announced his retirement from politics yesterday in a stunning political fall after a female aide accused him of multiple rapes.
Ahn Hee-jung, who came second to President Moon Jae-in in the contest for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination last year, is the most prominent figure to face abuse allegations during a swirling #MeToo movement in what is still a male-dominated society.
Kim Ji-eun, who was Ahn’s personal assistant before becoming an aide in civil affairs, told a television interviewer on Monday that Ahn had raped her four times since she was hired in June.
One of the violations took place in Geneva, Kim told JTBC, where Ahn was attending a UN Human Rights Council panel discussion in September. The last straw came when Ahn called her into his office on the night of Feb 25 and apologised for having hurt her, talking about the country’s #MeToo movement, Kim said.
“And then he raped me again,” she said, holding back tears.
She also accused Ahn of sexually assaulting others.
“He always told me not to express my thoughts or opinion and to live like a shadow behind him... I couldn’t say no to him because I knew how much power he had.”
Following the TV interview, the ruling Democratic Party held an emergency meeting and expelled Ahn with immediate effect. Hours later, the 52-year-old announced his resignation as governor of South Chungcheong province and his retirement from public life.
“I apologise to everyone, especially to Ji-eun,” Ahn said.
“I ask for forgiveness for my stupid action... it was all my fault,” he said in Facebook.
It was an astonishing turnaround for Ahn, who enjoyed huge popularity among young liberal voters thanks to his wholesome image and good looks, which helped him earn the nickname “South Chungcheong’s EXO” — after a K-pop boy band.
Ahn was relatively young in the South’s ageing political scene, and likened by many to former United States president Barack Obama during his bid for the presidential nomination.
He had been tipped as a frontrunner among liberal presidential hopefuls to succeed Moon — who can only serve one term — and topped an opinion poll last month on provincial governors’ job performance and transparency.
A governorship is seen as a springboard to a presidential bid.
Ahn threw his support behind the #MeToo campaign in a public speech just hours before Kim appeared on TV to talk about the sex abuse.
“That he raped me again after mentioning the #MeToo movement and apologising to me made me think ‘I may never be able to escape from this. How can I escape from him?’” Kim said.
National police chief Lee Chulsung said police had launched a preliminary investigation into Ahn after contacting Kim’s lawyers, and vowed to ensure her safety.