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South Korea Supreme Court finds ex-presidential candidate guilty of rapes

By Elizabeth Shim
South Korea Supreme Court finds ex-presidential candidate guilty of rapes
Former Gov. An Hee-jung of South Korea has been sentenced to three years and six months in prison. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA

Sept. 9 (UPI) -- A South Korean politician who once ran for president has been found guilty of sex abuse by the country's highest court.

An Hee-jung, former governor of South Chungcheong Province, has been sentenced to three years and six months in prison, the South Korean Supreme Court said, according to Yonhap news agency.

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An was acquitted in August 2018 of sexually assaulting Kim Ji-eun, his secretary, a decision that outraged local feminists and activists. Activists say Kim was a "temp worker" whose limited rights in the workplace allowed a powerful man like An to exploit her during his presidential campaign in 2017.

An was accused of and now stands guilty of raping Kim four times from July 2017 to February 2018, and for violating her rights in the workplace six times.

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On Monday, Seoul's Supreme Court said the evidence from the victim illustrates sex abuse.

"The victim's testimony is deemed credible given that it is consistent and very detailed without parts that are inconsistent," the court said.

The National Council on Sexual Violence said at a rally held outside the Supreme Court on Monday the high court ruling is a "great victory" for the "everyday Kim Ji-euns" of society.

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Last year, the Seoul Western District Court had said evidence from local prosecutors was "not sufficient" to prove the "violation of sexual freedoms."

The Supreme Court's ruling on Monday reflects a more recent decision from a lower court that accounted for gender inequality and unequal relationships in the South Korean workplace.

Kyunghyang Shinmun reported the 2018 court decision reflected the highly limited way in which Article 303 of the Criminal Code, an anti-exploitation law, was applied. The law largely relates to "legal minors and the disabled," and is less applicable to women who are subject to gender discrimination, according to the report.

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The 2019 ruling also accounted for the "use of force" during a specific incident that took place on July 30, 2017, at a venue called the "Russia Hotel," the report says.

Last year's court ruling concluded force was not used when An sexually assaulted Kim in a hotel room, an opinion that was overruled, according to the report.

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