An Assembly candidate and newspaper owner who is under fire for having prostitution ads printed in his Korean-language paper’s back pages apologized and said the lewd classifieds were a reminder that Flushing’s “quality of life is under attack.”
Myungsuk Lee, a 40th Assembly District hopeful, had published ads for seemingly legal massage services that ultimately served as disguises for illegal prostitution in his Korean American Times paper, the New York Post reported this week.
Lee, 49, said his paper, which places hundreds of ads per week, printed the ads under the impression the services offered were legal in nature.
“Had my staff known these individuals were, in fact, using these ads and services as a front for illegal activities, they would never have been accepted,” said the Flushing resident.
According to The Post, women answering telephones at numbers posted on at least two of the ads offered hour-long massages for $50. They directed callers to the same building as Lee’s publishing and campaign offices — at Prince Street and 35th Avenue in Flushing — where workers then tried to sell a Post reporter sexual services.
“I live in this community. I work in this community. I am raising a family in this community. I am deeply concerned that this type of illegal behavior is happening all around us every day, and part of the reason why I decided to run for office this year was to work to improve the overall quality of life for Flushing residents,” Lee said.
The Assembly candidate, who raised about $82,000 in campaign funds so far, pledged to discontinue the ads and correct the issue in the district going forward.
“We always need to stay vigilant against those [who] will lie and deceive for personal gain,” he said.
Meanwhile, seven other candidates vying for the same seat have filed their petitions and await a Board of Election’s commissioner’s hearing on July 30 that will determine if they have a sufficient number of signatures to make it on to the September 13 primary ballot.
They are Democrats Ron Kim, Martha Flores-Vazquez, Ethel Chen, Yen Chou, John Scandalios and Republicans Phil Gim and Sunny Hahn.
The seat is currently held by Assemblymember Grace Meng, who is heading into a general election for the 6th Congressional seat against Councilmember Dan Halloran.