South Korean convicted freed of #MeToo case

Agence France-Presse . Seoul | Published: 16:37, Jan 09,2020


A demonstrator takes part in a #MeToo protest march for survivors of sexual assault and their supporters in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California US on November 12, 2017. — Reuters file photo

A former prosecutor whose trial following groping allegations fuelled South Korea’s #MeToo movement walked free on Thursday after his conviction was quashed by the country’s top court.

Ahn Tae-geun, 53, was jailed for two years for abuse of power in January last year after being accused of repeatedly groping a female junior colleague at a funeral in 2015.

After Seo Ji-hyun filed a formal complaint, Ahn allegedly had her transferred to a provincial post, significantly impacting her career.

Seo went public with a tearful live television interview in 2018, which triggered a flood of similar accusations against powerful men in fields ranging from art to politics that grew into a South Korean #MeToo movement.

Despite its economic and technological advances the South remains a patriarchal society, and has one of the world’s thickest glass ceilings for women.

Ahn — who was separately fired for corruption in 2017 — could not be charged with sex abuse because the one-year statute of limitations had expired.

Instead he was indicted for abuse of power, accused of using his position to pressure senior prosecutors to reassign Seo to a junior position in revenge.

But the Supreme Court on Thursday quashed the lower court’s decision and ordered a retrial, saying it was difficult to conclude one of Ahn’s actions — asking a prosecutor to write a document related to Seo’s transfer to a provincial post — was a form of power abuse.

The original ruling ‘misunderstood legal principles on the crime of abuse of official authority’, the Supreme Court said in a statement.

‘The original verdict is quashed and the case is sent back for re-review and a new decision.’

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