Ahn Hee-jung, the former governor of South Korea’s South Chungcheong province and a one-time presidential contender, was acquitted of sexual assault by coercion by the Seoul Western District Court on Tuesday in what became known as one of the highest profile cases to emerge from the #MeToo movement in the peninsula.
“I am sorry and I am so ashamed,” Ahn reportedly said on the courthouse steps. “I have disappointed many. I will make efforts to be born again,” he reportedly said as women’s rights activists shouted “It’s not over yet!” at him.
Ahn, 53, was accused by his secretary Kim Ji-eun of raping and assaulting her. Kim made the allegations during an 18-minute interview with South Korean news channel JTBC in March. During her interview, Kim said she was unable to reject her boss’s advances due to the office’s hierarchy.
Ahn announced he would resign from his post and suspend all his political activities following Kim’s interview but maintained throughout the trials that the sex was consensual.
On Tuesday, the court said, “There are also many things that were questionable and incomprehensible in the victim’s testimony,” and said that it found “little evidence” that Ahn used his authority to force Kim into having sex with her.
Kim, in a statement read out by her lawyers, reportedly said she did “not feel defeated by today’s unjust result.”
“I will fight … until the day when those using their power to sexually abuse others are held accountable under the laws,” she said.
The #MeToo movement has also resulted in South Korean protests against sexism and hidden cameras, known as “molka,” that are used to film unsuspecting victims, most of whom are female. CNN reported that on August 4, over 40,000 South Korean women joined protests against the filming.
Last month, the #MeToo movement struck China as accusations of sexual assault and misconduct spread across social media with a sharp focus on prominent activists, intellectuals, and a television personality.
In Chinese, “Me Too” is “Wo ye shi” or 我也是.