SEOUL: South Korean presidential candidate Hong Joon-Pyo Friday denied his own autobiographical confession of complicity in an attempted date rape, as voter outrage mounted.
The firebrand prosecutor-turned-politician and candidate of ousted president Park Geun-Hye’s conservative party has been compared to Donald Trump for his outspoken rhetoric and sexist remarks.
While a first-year student at the prestigious Korea University, Hong wrote in a 2005 memoir, a roommate at his boarding house “asked us to obtain a stimulant” and then mixed it into a beer for a girl he had a crush on.
The man returned to the dormitory after midnight, his face scratched and his shirt torn, according to the book.
“He said the drug did not work,” Hong wrote. “When he attempted to remove her clothes, she woke up and put up strong resistance, biting and scratching him in the face.
“He asserted that if the drug been authentic, it should have worked. We said:‘Yes, it is real. It is used to get pigs to copulate in the countryside and we’ve been told it is also effective with humans’.”
Hong later became a criminal prosecutor and acknowledged in the book “how seriously wrong such mischief was”, calling the incident a prank.
“If I went back to that time, I would never join in such an escapade again,” he wrote.
But his confession has become the centre of furious controversy ahead of the election on May 9.
“A sex crime as a prank? You are not up to being a presidential candidate,” posted one netizen.
The former governor of South Gyeongsang province is backed by the Liberty Korea party, which changed its name to distance itself from the impeached president.
“How could a person like him become a presidential candidate?” rival conservative candidate Yoo Seung-Min told journalists.
“He joined in a sex crime and boasted of this experience in writing. He should be the subject of a case study in criminal psychology.”
Hong tried to distance himself from the account Friday, saying he had “overheard” the story from other residents of his boarding house, who were studying at a different school, and did not take part in the plot himself.
He told reporters he “made a clarification” when the book was published -- at a time when he had a much lower profile and reaction was limited.
“This is because I’ve emerged as a strong candidate, isn’t it?” he said.
Hong stands third in the presidential race with nine percent support in a Korea Gallup poll released Friday, far behind front-runner Moon Jae-In of the liberal Democratic Party on 41 percent and the People’s Party’s former IT tycoon Ahn Cheol-Soo with 30 percent.
Sexist attitudes towards women endure in parts of Korean society.
Hong, 62, is renowned for his incendiary rhetoric, and said Tuesday that “washing dishes is women’s work”.
But he insisted he was confident of an upset victory, comparing his run to Trump’s ultimately successful campaign for the White House.
“Trump became president despite biased news media,” he said. -AFP