Lawmaker quits Saenuri Party over sex scandal

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Lawmaker quits Saenuri Party over sex scandal

A lawmaker accused of raping a middle-aged woman in a hotel last month and giving her 300,000 won ($257) in cash quit the ruling Saenuri Party on Monday, saying he did not want the scandal to hurt the party.

Rep. Shim Hak-bong, a first-term policymaker who represents Gumi A district in North Gyeongsang, did not mention the rape in a 40-word statement.

“I deeply apologize to the people in my community and the entire country for causing discomfort over a shameful incident,” Shim said. “Regardless of the reason … I will leave the Saenuri Party today.”

Shim, who has not resigned from his seat in the National Assembly, said he will sincerely cooperate with a police investigation.

Daegu police said they will summon him for questioning some time in the near future.

The Daegu Metropolitan Police Agency said Sunday that a woman in her 40s said on July 24 she was raped by Shim on July 13. The woman, however, dropped her complaint against the politician three days later and changed her story.

The sexual intercourse “was not coerced,” the police quoted the woman as saying. She said she did not want the politician to be punished.

As to why she wished to withdraw her complaint, police said Monday that the woman told them, “I thought I was raped because he didn’t call me a single time after the sex.” The woman, who police identified as an insurance company worker, reportedly said she “felt better” when Shim’s acquaintance told her that “there was a misunderstanding.”

Police did not specify what the misunderstanding was, but said they are investigating whether Shim pressured the woman or bribed her to drop the case. It remains unknown whether the two contacted each other after July 13, when the alleged rape occurred at a hotel in Daegu, an officer said.

Sex offenders in Korea can still be prosecuted even if a victim withdraws a complaint.

In regards to whether the money Shim allegedly stuffed into her bag makes him subject to prostitution charges, National Police Agency chief Kang Shim-myung said Monday that the charge would be “unfeasible” because it was given after the sex.

“If he had promised the money beforehand as a way to purchase sex, it would be applicable,” Kang said in a press conference.

The Saenuri Party has yet to issue a statement on the case. The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy urged the ruling party to apologize to the people.

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