An embattled assembly hopeful is backing out of plans to confront the New York Post after the major metro paper exposed alleged prostitution ads in his Korean-language newspaper.
Myungsuk Lee, a 40th Assembly District candidate, was dealt a major blow to his campaign when the Post recently reported his paper, the Korean American Times, had published ads for seemingly legal massage services that ultimately served as guises for prostitution.
“The New York Post wrote an article of my newspaper’s back pages — that there are some illegal massage businesses — but it’s not true,” Lee, 49, said. “If you see my newspaper’s back pages, there are a lot of massage businesses on Northern Boulevard and Union Street. They’re all legal businesses.”
Lee said the lewd classifieds in question are located inside the paper, not on the back pages. The candidate, who has already issued an apology, now told The Courier he’s not sure the four or five small ads are in fact illegal.
“I acknowledged it at the time because I trusted the New York Post reporter,” Lee said. “But I called the massage business the New York Post visited and they said they are just a regular massage business.”
Lee said he had plans to send a letter to the Post to request a sit down with the paper’s higher up editorial officials, but the candidate is now postponing delivering the letter until after the election.
“Personally, I want to send a letter to the Post, but my political consultants advised me not to do it,” he said. “It makes it worse.”
The District Attorney’s office said they were “going to confer with the NYPD’s vice squad on the matter.”
Multiple Korean and Chinese-language newspaper reports said Lee intends to sue the Post for defamation and libel, but the newspaper owner denied that accusation.
Meanwhile, Lee — who is vying for the seat currently held by Assemblymember Grace Meng — said he’s hoping for a civil and positive campaign against fellow Korean-American candidate Ron Kim. Lee said he withdrew petition objections against Kim and asked his opponent to do the same.
“It’s bad in the Korean community to fight each other. It makes it very negative,” Lee said.
Pat McKenna, Kim’s spokesperson, said the Queens County Democratic Party verifies all petitions to make sure they conform to election law requirements in a “routine investigation.”
“It is clear that Myungsuk Lee will say anything to distract voters from the fact that he is under criminal investigation by the Queens District Attorney,” McKenna said. “His increasingly bizarre attacks and statements are simply the reflection of a campaign in turmoil desperately attempting to avoid talking about Myungsuk Lee’s shameful record.”