Hong added that the public’s sudden “interest” in the given anecdote reflected his recent uptrend in polls ahead of the upcoming May 9 election.
|Hong Joon-pyo, presidential candidate of the Liberty Korea, speaks Friday at the Kwanhun Club debate held at the Korea Press Center. (Yonhap)|
“It was just a story that I had overheard from other students at the boarding house back in 1972. I wasn’t actually involved but used the episode in my book to describe my younger days,” Hong told reporters Friday.
“The reason that I cannot reveal the actual name of the main person involved is because he is currently of the top tier in influencing the nation’s economy.”
In his autobiography, “I Want to Go Back,” published in 2005, Hong recalled a case of one of his friends looking out for an aphrodisiac used on pigs in his attempt to have sex with his crush.
He also claimed he and his friends got hold of the drug, but the rape attempt eventually ended in failure, an episode he recalled with partial amusement and some regret.
The related story immediately vexed the public when reported by the media late Thursday. Hong canceled some of his pre-planned campaign events upon the news spreading.
But apart from that, the conservative candidate retained control, claiming his innocence.
“Nobody called it into question when the book was published 10 years ago,” he added.
“Now that everybody cares so much, it seems that I am indeed becoming an important (presidential) candidate.”
|An image of Hong Joon-pyo's autobiography “I Want to Go Back,” published in 2005|
It was the People’s Party, affiliated with candidate Ahn Cheol-soo, which raised its voice against Hong’s lack of qualifications.
“Hong, who was previously handed down a criminal sentence for taking illicit political funds, turned out to have another criminal experience as a joint offender in attempted rape during his student years,” the party said through a statement, urging Hong to resign from the presidential race.
“Hong should no longer call himself a conservative politician, as he is an ex-convict of the Public Official Election Law, suspected violator of the Political Fund Law and a confessed offender of sexual violence, not an advocate of conservative values.”
Hong’s approval rating stood around 10 percent as of Friday -- 9 percent according to Research View and 11.4 percent according to Gallup Korea.
Of them, a considerable number are expected to shift to centrist alternative Ahn of the People’s Party in case Hong renounces his candidacy or further loses the favor of the public.
Rep. Roh Hoe-chan, floor leader of the progressive minority Justice Party, also raised his voice to urge for Hong’s ouster, referring to him as the “worst-ever conservative candidate, who needs to be isolated from society.”
Nonchalant in the face of vicious criticism, Hong continued to appeal to the conservative voter pool and pledged to complete the race without dropping out before votes are cast.
“Currently, many conservative voters are leaning toward Ahn, but should they find out the truth about him, they will withdraw support and return (to the Liberty Korea Party),” Hong said in a debate at the Kwanhun Club, an association of senior journalists.
He also expressed confidence in achieving 15 percent or more in the election, claiming recent polls failed to precisely reflect voter sentiment, as was often the case in past elections.
Candidates who receive over 15 percent in the presidential vote will have campaign funds refunded after the election.
Bae Hyun-jung (firstname.lastname@example.org)