South Korean prosecutor jailed in #MeToo case

Ahn Tae-geun was accused of repeatedly groping a female junior colleague at the funeral of another co-worker's father.
Ahn Tae-geun was accused of repeatedly groping a female junior colleague at the funeral of another co-worker's father.PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (AFP) - A former senior South Korean prosecutor was convicted of abuse of power and jailed for two years on Wednesday (Jan 23) in connection with a high-profile case that triggered the country's #MeToo movement.

Ahn Tae-geun was accused of repeatedly groping a female junior colleague at the funeral of another co-worker's father. After Seo Ji-hyun filed a formal complaint, he had her transferred to a provincial position and her career went nowhere.

She suffered in silence for years until she went public with a tearful live television interview last January, detailing her experiences.

The interview was a rarity in a still conservative society where female victims of sexual assault are often reluctant to come forward due to fears of shaming.

But it triggered a flood of similar accusations against powerful men in fields ranging from art and literature to politics and religion that grew into a South Korean #MeToo movement.

Ahn - who was separately fired for corruption in 2017 - could not be charged with sexual abuse because the one-year statute of limitations had expired, but was punished for abuse of power for having Seo transferred.

Announcing the verdict at the Seoul Central District Court, judge Lee Sang-ju said there was sufficient evidence that Ahn transferred Seo away from Seoul "because he was afraid of the consequences of her internal complaint".

 
 
 

He has always maintained that he had no recollection of the initial incident as he was drunk at the memorial ceremony, but the judge said he was necessarily aware of an internal investigation at the time his accuser was moved.

Ahn, who had denied the charges and been granted bail during the proceedings, was arrested in the courtroom.

Wednesday's ruling came months after Ahn Hee-jung, a former South Korean presidential contender, was acquitted of raping a female aide, a verdict that infuriated women's rights activists in the country.