Kim Keon-hee, 49, made the controversial comments while criticising the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in an interview for the liberal YouTube channel Voice of Seoul.
A court dismissed a complaint by Kim’s People Power Party to stop the channel from airing parts of the interview. The recordings were later sent to MBC TV, a leading broadcaster, which played the remarks on air late on Sunday.
“MeToo incidents occur because they [men] don’t pay, surely. They wanna play around but have no money. I understand them,” Kim said.
She was referring to how prominent liberal politicians had been caught in a series of sex scandals in recent years, according to the South China Morning Post.
In the recordings, Kim said that, unlike liberal politicians, “conservatives make sure they pay” and that “they don’t use people free of charge.”
She said that “conservatives should pay to do it” and that they should not copy their liberal counterparts in failing to pay the women as they never knew when such incidents would surface again and make their lives difficult.
Scandals of sexual assaults have hit high-profile figures in recent years, causing an uproar in society and further fueling the #MeToo movement in South Korea.
Ahn Hee-Jung, former mayor of South Chungcheong province, was sentenced to 42 months of prison for sexually assaulting his aide, and Park Won-soon, former mayor of Seoul, who committed suicide in 2020 after sexual harassment allegations against him, came under the spotlight.
In the interview, Kim said that she felt sorry for Mr Ahn and that she and her husband were on his side.
Activists criticised Kim’s remarks on social media, saying she was inflicting pain on #MeToo victims of sexual harassment and rape, and lending support to sexual predators.
Kim apologised in a request for comment by MBC TV for “inappropriate remarks” she made “in the process of criticising certain liberal figures involved in sexual exploitation.”
Her comments may deal Mr Yoon’s presidential fortunes in the country’s March elections a blow despite his lead against democratic candidate Lee Jae-Myung by 40.6 per cent to 36.7 per cent, according to a survey by Realmeter on Monday.