Wed, Mar 07, 2018 - Page 6 News List

S Korean governor resigns over sexual assault allegations

Reuters, SEOUL

People watch a news report showing Chungcheongnam-do Province Governor An Hee-jung’s secretary Kim Ji-eun, left, in Seoul yesterday.

Photo: AFP

A South Korean provincial governor yesterday announced his resignation, just hours after an aide accused him of repeated sexual assault, as the snowballing #MeToo movement rattled the nation’s political establishment.

The woman on Monday evening in a television interview accused Chungcheongnam-do Province Governor An Hee-jung, a leader in last year’s presidential election and a member of South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s Democratic Party. Provincial police said they were investigating the allegations.

An’s office initially claimed that the sex was consensual, but, just a few hours after the interview was aired, An said on Facebook that his staff’s statement was erroneous and announced his plan to resign and retire from political life.

“My staff office’s description of the relationship as consensual was incorrect,” he wrote. “Everything is my fault.”

Discussion of sexual misconduct has long been taboo in South Korea, but in recent months, the anti-sexual harassment #MeToo movement has taken off.

Speaking to broadcaster JTBC, An’s aide, Kim Ji-eun, said An had sexually harassed and repeatedly assaulted her.

“Over the past eight months, I have been sexually assaulted four times,” she said.

“An recently talked to me about the growing sense of the #MeToo movement and it seems to me that he looked nervous and asked me if I was okay, then he said he was sorry,” Kim said, adding that An nevertheless assaulted her again.

An and Kim were not immediately reachable for comment.

The ruling Democratic Party quickly moved to expel An, with party head Choo Mi-ae saying that the alleged acts “should have never happened.”

An, 52, became an unexpected challenger to Moon during last year’s presidential primaries.

He was seen by many as a down-to-earth, uncomplicated politician, traits that served him well in a nation roiled by the impeachment of former South Korean president Park Geun-hye in 2016.

Supporters nicknamed An the “EXO of South Chungcheong,” after a popular K-pop band.

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