S Korea's Moon under fire for sending flowers to sex offender's family funeral

WION Web Team Seoul, South Korea Jul 09, 2020, 12.44 PM(IST)

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has put more than 50 million won (around $41,000) of his own money into a fund investing in firms looking to replace Japanese suppliers. Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

Sexual harassment victims often face pressure to stay silent for fear of public shaming, but signs of change emerged after the country's own #MeToo movement -- sparked in 2018 by a prosecutor who publically accused a superior of groping her at a funeral, prompting many to share their stories.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in was criticised on Thursday for sending condolence flowers to the funeral of a convicted sex offender's mother.

Former provincial governor Ahn Hee-jung was once a rising star and came second to Moon in the race for the 2017 Democratic presidential nomination, but was convicted last year of sexual intercourse by abuse of authority after his female assistant accused him of repeatedly raping her. He is serving three and a half years in prison.

Sexual harassment victims often face pressure to stay silent for fear of public shaming, but signs of change emerged after the country's own #MeToo movement -- sparked in 2018 by a prosecutor who publically accused a superior of groping her at a funeral, prompting many to share their stories.

Ahn was by far the highest-profile individual named as a result.

But after he was temporarily released from jail to attend the funeral ceremonies, he received visits from scores of political heavyweights offering their condolences -- among them Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun, his predecessor Lee Nak-yon, and ruling party leader Lee Hae-chan.

CRITICISM

Women's groups and progressive politicians reacted furiously, saying the moves demonstrated the political establishment's traditionalist mindset and sent a signal that sexual crimes could be disregarded.

"Every message from a president is an act of governance, including condolences," wrote commentator Choi Moon-sun in the Hankook Ilbo newspaper.

When Moon sent the flowers, she said, "there was no president for South Korean women".

Jo Hye-min, a spokeswoman for the opposition Justice Party, said Ahn's victim was "still struggling in life in the face of non-stop shaming".

The presidential office said Thursday it sent the flowers following a "comprehensive review of the situation".

Ahn was due to return to prison Thursday.

(with inputs from AFP)