Prosecutors form special team to investigate #MeToo revelation

Lim Chang-won Reporter Posted : 2018-01-31 12:59 Updated : 2018-01-31 12:59
글씨작게 글씨크게

Former senior justice official Ahn Tae-geun. [Yonhap Photo]

SEOUL, Jan. 31 (Aju News) -- South Korean state prosecutors formed a special team Wednesday for an internal inspection of sexual harassment in the workplace after President Moon Jae-in responded to a female prosecutor's #MeToo revelation that sparked a public outcry.

The Supreme Prosecutors' Office said the team involving female prosecutors and investigators would launch an unbiased investigation until sexual harassment and mistreatment of female employees are eradicated in one of South Korea's most closed and hierarchical public organizations.

As its first work, the team will dig into allegations that Seo Ji-hyeon, a female prosecutor in the southeastern city of Changwon, was sexually harassed by a drunken senior prosecutor at a funeral attended by top justice ministry officials in October 2010. She accused Ahn Tae-geun, who served a senior justice ministry official at the time, of
groping her body.

The man was sacked in June last year for handing out money to his subordinates at a private dinner in return for their help in a political case. This week, he made a guarded apology, claiming he could not remember because he was intoxicated at the time and it happened a long time ago.

"He wrapped my waist and stroked my ass, but no one stopped the harassment. I felt a sense of tremendous insult and shame because of the sudden harassment in a public place," Seo said, arguing that she had to shut up probably because of possible disadvantage in the workplace. Seo said that others cases of sexual harassment targeting female prosecutors have been covered up.

At a workshop attended by top government officials on Tuesday, Moon called for a new policy objective of creating a work environment in which female workers can freely report any sexual abuse, referring to Seo's case.

"I want you to create a culture that such sexual harassment or sexual assault will never take place again," Moon said, adding Seo's revelation shed light on how difficult it may be for female workers to speak about sexual harassment.

The "#MeToo" movement has exposed a slew of allegations against some of the world's most powerful men. However, it has gained little attention in South Korea, which has long been overshadowed by Confucian and conservative ideologies. High-profile figures and celebrities are reluctant to reveal personal experiences due to a different social culture. Sometimes, silence-breakers have been humiliated, become the target of cyberbullying.