Former prosecutor jailed for abuse of power in South Korea following #MeToo allegations

A former senior prosecutor, whose alleged sexual harassment of a female colleague sparked South Korea’s #MeToo movement last year, was sentenced to two years in prison on Wednesday.

Ahn Tae-geun was convicted of abusing his position to have 45-year-old prosecutor Seo Ji-hyun transferred after she accused him of harassing her. He was immediately taken into custody following the sentencing,

The 52-year-old Ahn “abused his official position in order to cover up his wrongdoings, inflicting a serious mental wound on the victim”, Seoul central district court said in a statement.

Seo accused Ahn of repeatedly groping her during a funeral dinner for a colleague’s father in 2010.

When she reported the incident to other senior prosecutors, Ahn is said to have hampered the internal investigation and pulled strings to have her transferred to a minor post in a remote regional prosecutor’s office.

“I thought he would be exonerated…are you sure it was an actual prison term, not a suspended jail term?” an incredulous Seo asked me on the phone (she was not at the court today) as her abuser, Ahn Tae-geun, was taken into custody immediatedly after the verdict was delivered.

— Hawon Jung (@allyjung) January 23, 2019

Ahn, who was fired in 2017 amid corruption allegations, was only charged with abusing his authority as the statue of limitations for sexual harassment, which is one year in South Korea, had expired. He has denied all allegations against him.

Seo was one of the first high-profile women in socially conservative South Korea to come forward with allegations of sexual harassment as the country’s #MeToo movement began to gain traction at the beginning of last year.

#MeToo to meat: no more soju calendars with nearly nude women in South Korea

In the months since, a number of other women such as skater Shim Suk-hee and judo athlete Shin Yu-yong have also gone public.

In the past, many victims who spoke out against their abusers were called troublemakers, ostracised and sometimes even fired.

But since the #MeToo movement took hold, former presidential contender Ahn Hee-jung, prominent poet Ko Un and a renowned theatre director Lee Yun-taek have all been named and shamed. Lee was sentenced to six years in prison in September for abusing eight members of his Street Theatre Troupe by forcing them to give him lewd massages.

Other offenders include cult leader Lee jae-rok, who was jailed for 15 years in November for raping eight followers of his mega church and Cho Jae-beom, the coach of short track Olympic double gold medallist Shim, who is accused of repeatedly assaulting her over a period of four years.

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