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Politics

#MeToo claims potential South Korean presidential candidate

Gov. Ahn Hee-jung steps down after secretary reveals sexual assaults

South Korea's Ahn Hee-jung, right, lost a presidential primary election to Moon Jae-in last year.   © Reuters

SEOUL -- The #MeToo movement sweeping South Korea has brought down Ahn Hee-jung, the governor of South Chungcheong Province. Ahn resigned on Tuesday after admitting to sexual assault against his secretary, who made the charge during a television interview on Monday.

The powerful politician had been governor since 2010. He ran unsuccessfully in the presidential primary of the Democratic Party of Korea last year, losing to President Moon Jae-in.

Ahn was expected to run again in the next presidential election.

On his Facebook page, Ahn apologized to his political affairs secretary Kim Ji-eun and supporters for his "ridiculous actions." He said he would step down from his post and stop all political activities.

The resignation came just hours after Kim told cable network JTBC that Ahn had sexually assaulted her four times since June last year, including once during his trip to Russia in July and again on a September visit to Switzerland.

She said he also assaulted her on Feb. 25, when the #MeToo movement was causing women to raise their voices against male sexual violence.

"The governor [apologized about his past assaults] while talking about the #MeToo movement, so I thought he would not assault me that day. But he did," Kim said during the interview.

The latest scandal has emerged after the #MeToo movement gained traction in the country when prosecutor Seo Ji-hyun said in January that she was sexually harassed by Justice Ministry Director Ahn Tae-keun in 2010. 

Seo's revelation was followed by allegations of sexual assault against theater director Lee Youn-taek. Poet Ko En has also been accused of sexually harassing female poets and authors.

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