6:01 pm - 03/06/2018
[TW] South Korea Governor Ahn Hee-jung Steps Down After Rape Accusations
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A rising star in South Korean politics and one-time presidential hopeful has resigned after his secretary publicly accused him of repeatedly raping her.
Ahn Hee-jung’s departure as governor of South Chungcheong province on Tuesday came against the backdrop of a growing #MeToo movement in the male-dominated country, where sexual misconduct is rarely discussed.
In an emotional interview on South Korean television, Kim Ji-eun said she was raped by Ahn on four occasions starting in June last year, including on business trips to Switzerland and Russia. The most recent assault was on 25 February, she said.
“Recently, Ahn met me late at night to talk about the #MeToo movement. He seemed anxious and said by observing the growth of the #MeToo movement, he realised that he had hurt me,” Kim said. “He apologised so I thought it wouldn’t happen again, but he did it again that night.”
“I thought I could never escape from all this.”
Ahn, who was widely expected to run to replace president Moon Jae-in when his term ends in 2022, is the highest profile figure so far to have been accused in a wave of allegations against public officials and artists.
In the rigid hierarchy of Ahn’s office, common among South Korean work environments, Kim felt she could not reject his advances and said there were other victims who had yet to speak out. Fighting back tears, Kim said in the interview she remained terrified of Ahn and went public to ensure her safety. “I hope my fellow citizens can protect me,” she said.
Ahn’s office initially denied the accusations, saying any relationship between the two was consensual. However, several hours after the interview, that statement was retracted and Ahn apologised on his Facebook page.
“It’s all my fault,” he said in a statement. “I ask forgiveness for my foolish behaviour.”
“Above all I deeply apologise to Kim Ji-eun, who has suffered because of me.”
Ahn had expressed support for the #MeToo movement on the same day as Kim’s interview, saying it served as a platform to “resist against a culture that is very male-dominated”.
The ruling Democratic party expelled Ahn in an effort to limit the damage ahead of local elections in June and South Korea’s national police agency announced it had begun an investigation.
Ahn contested his party’s nomination for president last year, losing to Moon. He is part of a generation of politicians who were formerly democracy activists during South Korea’s military dictatorship in the 1980s.
The #MeToo movement, which emerged in October last year in the wake of public revelations of sexual misconduct allegations against the film producer Harvey Weinstein, initially struggled to gain traction in South Korean society, where men dominate in a rigid social hierarchy. But there was a public outcry in January when Seo Ji-hyeon, a public prosecutor, said she was groped at a funeral in 2010.
Accusations have also prompted poets, artists and Catholic priests to apologise for their conduct, and some libraries have removed work by those who have admitted to assault.
President Moon reiterated his support for a shifting of attitudes towards sexual misconduct a day before Kim went public with her story.
“With the #MeToo movement, our society is in the midst of a crucial change,” Moon said. “The movement is leading Korea toward a society in which sexual equality and women’s rights are realised and the dignity of all people is respected.”
Source: The Guardian