GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 20:  Sukhee Shim of Korea competes during the Ladies Short Track Speed Skating 100m Heats on day eleven of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Ice Arena on February 20, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
South Korea skating rocked by abuse accusations (January, 2019)
02:32 - Source: CNN
Seoul CNN  — 

A former South Korean governor and one-time presidential contender has been sentenced to three and a half years in prison for rape, five months after he was controversially acquitted for the same crime.

Ahn Hee-jung was jailed by an appeals court Friday for the rape and assault of Kim Ji-eun, his former assistant, Kim’s lawyer Jung Hye-sun told CNN.

Speaking after the verdict, Kim thanked her lawyers and witnesses who supported her case.

“I can say goodbye to my torturous time when I was forced to live feeling like a witch to be burnt,” she said.

“I’d like to share all the help I received with other victims who still have to prove everything in their lonely fights. I’d like to send my solidarity to all the victims of sexual crimes whether they spoke about their cases but were ignored or couldn’t speak about their issues and quietly watched my trial.”

Kim came forward with the allegations during an interview with South Korean news channel JTBC last year. Her testimony helped kick start the South Korean MeToo movement, and Ahn was later charged with 10 counts of sexual harassment and sexual coercion.

At the first trial, however, a court found Ahn not guilty on all counts based on a lack of evidence he had abused his power to compel Kim to act against her will. In a controversial decision, judges refused to admit some of Kim’s testimony about her assault.

After prosecutors appealed the case, a court on Friday threw out the initial verdict, and found Ahn guilty on nine of 10 counts, Jung said.

CNN has reached out to Ahn’s lawyer for comment on the case, but has yet to receive a response.

People watch a television news report showing a picture of Kim Ji-eun (right on television), a secretary of Ahn Hee-jung, at a railway station in Seoul on March 6, 2018.

Before the allegations surfaced, Ahn was seen as a rising star in the ruling Democratic party. He was the runner up to current President Moon Jae-in to represent the party in last year’s presidential election.

Korean society has long been considered conservative and male-dominated. In the past, women were expected to be silent and accepting in the face of unfair treatment or even sexual assault.

The MeToo movement, however, has encouraged women like Kim to speak out about their experiences. In December last year, prominent Korean short track skating, Shim Suk-hee, filed a complaint against her former coach, Cho Jae-beom, alleging multiple sexual assaults.

Shim’s testimony opened a floodgate for other athletes to come forward with allegations of physical and sexual assault. Last month, a nationwide investigation into the sports industry was launched by the National Human Rights Commission. It is expected to interview more than 130,000 student and adult athletes, and cover dozens of sports.

Ahn is the second high profile man to be convicted on MeToo-related allegations in recent weeks. In late January, Ahn Tae-geun, a former top prosecutor, was jailed for abuse of power, after he retaliated against a subordinate who accused him of sexual assault by reassigning her to a remote part of the country.

CNN’s Jake Kwon and James Griffiths contributed reporting.