Ruling party scrambles to minimize fallout from sexual abuse scandal

By Yonhap
  • Published : Mar 6, 2018 - 15:09
  • Updated : Mar 6, 2018 - 15:09
The ruling Democratic Party scrambled Tuesday to minimize the fallout from sexual abuse allegations involving one of its most prominent members, as it gears up for the June local elections.

Its task force on sexual violence convened an emergency session and decided to call for "stern punishment" for An Hee-jung, who resigned as governor of the central South Chungcheong Province earlier in the day over allegations he had forceful sexual relations with a female secretary four times over the past eight months.

The party already decided to expel the popular politician shortly after the victim, Kim Ji-eun, made the revelations in a prime-time TV interview late Monday. She hinted that there are more victims.

Rep. Nam In-soon, the head of the ruling Democratic Party`s task force on sexual violence, speaks to the media at the National Assembly in Seoul on March 6, 2018. (Yonhap)

The fall from grace of An, widely seen as a potential presidential candidate, is a major setback for the liberal ruling party just about three months ahead of the gubernatorial and mayoral elections seen as a referendum on President Moon Jae-in's first year in office.

"(We) call for stern punishment in accordance with the criminal code and the special act on preventing sexual violence," Rep. Nam In-soon, who heads the ruling party's task force, told reporters after the session.

"As a lawmaker, I cannot help but feel enraged on hearing of An's (alleged) sexual assault," she added.

Nam also called for a "prompt and thorough" investigation into the possibility that there are more victims among An's staff.

"We express our respect and support for (the victim's) courageous revelations," Nam said.

The party's task force plans to install an in-house counseling center for victims of sexual abuse and an independent human rights body within the National Assembly to fend off sexual violence.

Cho Tae-je, the head of the party's ethics panel, said that the party would take disciplinary action in consideration of public sentiment regarding the victim's suffering.

"We have told the person in charge to contact An to appear and explain his position at the ethics panel," Cho told Yonhap News Agency over the phone. "Even if he refuses to do so, we will be able to make a decision today."

Mindful of growing public outrage over the disgraced party member, Choo Mi-ae, the party chief, repeated her public apology.

"I again apologize to the citizens who have been greatly shocked," she wrote on Facebook.

"Without wavering due to political or electoral considerations, (we) will apply a zero tolerance principle to root out sex crimes," she added.

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party was quick to attack the ruling party, highlighting that An has "sunken with his most sordid appearance."

It also said that the ruling party should not field its candidate for the governorship in South Chungcheong Province during the June elections as a gesture of apology.(Yonhap)