New Straits Times

PRESIDENTI­AL HOPEFUL FELLED BY RAPE CLAIM

Aide accuses S. Korean governor of raping her right after he praised #MeToo movement

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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.

 ??  ?? Ahn Hee-jung and (inset) Kim Jieun
Ahn Hee-jung and (inset) Kim Jieun
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