SEOUL: A scandal-hit law professor bowed out of the running to become South Korea’s justice minister on Saturday over his controversial views on women and admissions of drink driving and other transgressions.
Ahn Kyong-Hwan withdrew his candidacy in the wake of a public outcry centered on his 2016 book “What is Man?” and past behavior including the revelation that he had once forged a marriage registration with an ex-girlfriend without her knowledge.
The move is widely seen as a serious blow to South Korea’s new President Moon Jae-In’s efforts to reform state prosecution authorities under the command of the justice ministry, who have a checkered history of corruption and abuse of power.
Ahn’s nomination sparked a storm of controversy immediately after it was announced last Sunday, with concern focusing on his confessions in a newspaper column three years ago that he had repeatedly driven drunk and had cheated in a tax return.
Ahn, a former head of the state human rights watchdog, also came under fire for his views on the role of women, outlined in his book, which featured musings such as “female company is essential for drinking”.
“Women can live selling their bodies rather than begging. There are men in abundance who are willing to pay for sex,” he said in the book.
His nomination sparked a public outcry.
“A man with such a distorted attitude toward the opposite sex is a high government official? Shame on the whole country,” one person wrote on a news website.
Ahn, 69, held a press conference on Friday to express his contrition over the false marriage registration, which was later nullified by a court.
“I committed a terrible wrongdoing when I was in my mid 20s. Since then I’ve been living in repentance, regretting my wrong behavior,” he said.
But he insisted that his writings had been taken out of context and said he had no intention to “insult women” and saying he wanted to give men “a chance to reflect on themselves by revealing my own nature and desire”.
The presidential Blue House issued a statement Saturday expressing “regret” that Ahn had stepped down, adding “we respect his decision.”