South Korea’s Catholic church on Sunday apologised to a woman who accused a priest of sexual abuse and attempted rape during a trip to a mission in South Sudan.
Kim Min-Kyung took the rare step of appearing on television news last week to accuse the priest of sexually abusing her during their trip to the country in 2011.
Kim, a volunteer who helped build a school and medical clinics in South Sudan, said the priest repeatedly tried to rape her, at one point breaking into her room at night.
“He pinned me down so that I couldn’t move and said ‘I can’t control my body anymore. Please understand me,'” Kim told KBS TV station, saying she managed to flee the room.
Kim said she had reported the incidents to other priests at the mission but received little help, and had previously decided to keep silent “for the sake of the church and the mission”.
The name of the priest was withheld.
The church released a statement apologising to Kim and vowing to “reform our priesthood”, without elaborating on any specific measures taken against the priest.
“I… offer my deepest apology to the female victim who lived with such deep wounds for all these years and her family, as well as the members of our diocese,” Bishop Mathias Lee Yong-Hoon of Suwon said in a letter posted on the church’s website.
“The priesthood of our diocese will take joint responsibility and repent together over this incident,” he said.
“Our diocese will use this opportunity to repent and atone for our past sins and to correct our wrongdoings”.
The priest has reportedly admitted committing most of the abuses recounted by Kim and has been removed from his parish, Yonhap news agency said, citing church officials.
Kim said she suffered from depression after returning to Seoul and decided to come forward after hearing about the #MeToo campaign against the abuse of women.
“I would have kept this secret had I not known about the Metoo movement… I just didn’t want other victims like me… to spend the rest of their lives blaming themselves like I did,” she said.
Sex abuse allegations are a rarity in South Korea, which remains a patriarchal and conservative society despite its economic and technological advances.