SEOUL (AFP) – A former South Korean presidential contender stepped down as a provincial governor yesterday and announced his retirement from politics after a secretary accused him of multiple rapes.
The stunning fall of Ahn Hee-jung – who came second to Moon Jae-in in the contest to select the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate last year – makes him the most prominent figure to face abuse allegations in a swirling #MeToo movement in what is still a male-dominated society.
One of his secretaries told a television interviewer on Monday that Mr Ahn had raped her four times since hiring her in June.
Kim Ji-eun told JTBC that the last straw came when Ahn called her into his office on the night of February 25 and apologised for having hurt her, talking about the country’s #MeToo movement.
“And then he raped me again,” she said, holding back tears. She also accused Mr Ahn of sexually assaulting others.
Following the TV interview, the ruling Democratic Party held an emergency meeting and expelled Mr Ahn with immediate effect.
Hours later, he announced his resignation as governor of South Chungcheong Province and retirement from public life.
“I apologise to everyone, especially to Miss Kim Ji-eun,” he said in a Facebook post. “I ask for forgiveness for my stupid action… it was all my fault.”
Mr Ahn was campaigning for the #MeToo movement just hours before Kim appeared on TV to talk about the sex abuse.
Mr Ahn was runner-up in the Democratic Party’s contest to select a presidential candidate last year.
He had been tipped as a front-runner among liberal presidential hopefuls to succeed Moon.