TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) - The case involving Ahn Hee-jung -- who before the scandal was widely seen as a strong candidate to replace President Moon Jae-in when his term ends in 2022 -- is by far the highest-profile in the country's growing #MeToo movement.
Ahn was acquitted of forced sexual abuse by abuse of authority and other charges by the Seoul Western District Court.
"I am sorry and I am so ashamed," he said on the courthouse steps.
"I have disappointed many. I will make efforts to be born again," he went on, as women's rights activists shouted "It's not over yet!" at him.
South Korea remains socially patriarchal despite its economic and technological advances, with a male-dominated legal system often accused of handing out verdicts favoring men in sex abuse cases.
Ahn was governor of South Chungcheong province when his aide Kim Ji-eun told a television interview earlier this year that he had raped her four times after she was hired.
Fighting back tears, she said she had been unable to reject her boss in the rigid hierarchy of her office.
The 53-year-old politician issued a formal apology and stepped down from his post.
"There are also many things that were questionable and incomprehensible in the victim's testimony," the court ruling said.
Tuesday's verdict was delivered as dozens of women's rights campaigners condemned Ahn while the politician's supporters cheered for him outside the courtroom, AFP reported.