Still morally guiltyFormer South Chungcheong Gov. An Hee-jung was found not guilty on charges of raping and sexually assaulting his personal secretary on multiple occasions during his first trial. A Seoul District Court cleared An by disagreeing with the plaintiff’s claim that the politician abused his power to force sexual relations. It cited a lack of evidence pointing to the defendant using force in any way or abusing the plaintiff’s sexual freedom.
An was a rising politician from the liberal front who many had considered as a candidate to succeed President Moon Jae-in. But he fell from grace after his secretary, Kim Ji-eun, went on live TV with her Me Too testimony. He said that he “is ashamed” and vowed to “be born again” following the first ruling. His supporters cheered the ruling and called for his return to politics.
Kim and the prosecution vowed to appeal the ruling. A women’s rights group also decried the court’s discrediting of a victim’s account and a narrow legal interpretation of “abuse of power” by someone in a position of authority. The main opposition Liberal Korea Party called the ruling a “death sentence” to the Me Too Movement in Korea.
An has restored his name to some extent. But it is premature to call for his return to politics. He may have been cleared of rape accusations, but it does not change the fact that he had an extramarital affair with his secretary. Moreover, testimonies during the trial painted him as a domineering monarch rather than a reform-minded politician.
High ethical standards and self-control are virtues you can hardly find among Korean politicians. A new and reform-minded politician should have different virtues. Regardless of the ruling, An has failed in those criteria. Moreover, he is not entirely innocent morally and politically until the higher court make its rulings.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 15, Page 26