South Korea President Moon Jae In's justice minister nominee quits over alleged ethical lapses

South Korean President Moon Jae In delivers a speech at the National Assembly in Seoul, on June 12, 2017.
South Korean President Moon Jae In delivers a speech at the National Assembly in Seoul, on June 12, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (Korea Herald/Asia News Network) - South Korea's Justice Minister nominee Ahn Kyung Whan withdrew himself from consideration amid snowballing controversy over his alleged ethical lapses, the presidential office said.

Cheong Wa Dae said on late Friday (June 16) that Ahn had decided to turn down President Moon Jae In's offer to lead the Ministry of Justice, as he did not want to "stand in the way of the President's efforts to reform the nation's prosecution".

Ahn's withdrawal came eight hours after he apologised over a raft of accusations raised against him at a press briefing, including illegal marriage registration and his purported peddling of influence at his son's high school to prevent him from being expelled.

The former head of the nation's human rights watchdog has also come under fire for sexist comments in his books and columns.

Ahn had said on Friday morning that he intended to go through the parliamentary confirmation hearing to "achieve the public's aspirations" of overhauling the prosecution.

"What happened long ago is clearly my fault. I will never forget that until I die. But it is not desirable for me to have my whole life as a scholar and writer to be denied because of the incident," he said at the press briefing.

The former nominee added he had no intention to disparage women in his writing, "I sincerely ask you to grasp the full context of the book."

In the book What Is A Man, Ahn described women as "a necessary companion to alcohol-fueled gatherings".

"There should be women at alcohol-fueled gatherings. If none, there should be at least mothers-in-law around you," he said.

Moon nominated Ahn earlier this week, saying his apparent lack of ties to the established powers and ample experience of advocating human rights make him the right person to revamp the prosecution.

The President has struggled to appoint a squeaky-clean Cabinet as his efforts to find candidates free of ethics issues have proved challenging, leading to a delay in government and policy formation.