NATIONAL

Prosecutor-turned-lawmaker to be investigated over sexual harassment case

By Claire Lee
  • Published : Mar 2, 2018 - 20:12
  • Updated : Mar 3, 2018 - 14:15
An independent team of prosecutors is to investigate Rep. Choi Gyo-il, a prosecutor-turned-lawmaker who has been accused of blocking an internal probe into a sexual harassment case involving prosecutors while he was working for the Justice Ministry back in 2010.

The high-profile case, made public by female prosecutor Seo Ji-hyun in January when she disclosed the sexual harassment she experienced in 2010 in a television news program, has ignited the #MeToo movement in Korea.

Many other women, especially those in the entertainment and arts industry, have made allegations of sexual misconduct against the nation’s high-profile male figures following Seo’s TV interview.
 
Rep. Choi Gyo-il (above) of Liberty Korea party has been accused of bloking an internal probe into a sexual harassment case involving a female prosecutor and her superior when he was a prosecutor back in 2010.
  
Seo said she was sexually assaulted by her former senior prosecutor Ahn Tae-geun, accusing him of groping her waist without her consent back in 2010.

She also accused Rep. Choi Gyo-il of Liberty Korea party, who was a senior prosecutor at the Justice Ministry at the time, of actively “covering up” her case, pressing her not to speak about it any further when she filed a complaint against Ahn within her organization.

Seo said she never received an apology from Ahn. Instead, Seo claimed she was moved to the Tongyeong branch in Tongyeong, South Gyeongsang Province, from the Seoul Northern District Office, against her will.

Rep. Choi has been denying the allegations, saying he never knew about the incident in the first place. “I never spoke to prosecutor Seo about the incident,” he said. “I do not understand her allegations at all.”

It has not been confirmed when Rep. Choi will be asked to meet with the independent investigation team.

The special investigation team was launched in late January, following Seo’s allegation, to deal with allegations of sexual abuse made internally by female prosecutors against male colleagues or seniors.

It is headed by Cho Hee-jin, who became the first woman deputy prosecutor in the Seoul High Prosecutor’s Office in 2013. The team consists of other female prosecutors, including Park Hyun-ju, a specialist in sex crimes and gender-based violence, as well as Jang So-young, who has dealt with many criminal cases involving schoolchildren.

On top of Seo’s case, the investigation team has also charged a prosecution investigation officer with sexual assault, after an allegation was made by his female colleague.

The team also plans to investigate an ex-prosecutor who currently lives in the US. He has been accused of sexually assaulting a junior female colleague at a work gathering while working as a prosecutor.

The alleged victim was reportedly drunk at the time. The accused, on the other hand, later left his position at the Public Prosecutors’ Office, and got a job at one of the major conglomerates here. He is reportedly on leave and currently studying overseas.

The special investigation team said the ex-prosecutor has been asked to return to South Korea for an investigation, and the team will ask the Ministry of Justice to invalidate his passport should he fail to respond to the summons.

Meanwhile, Ahn Tae-geun, who has been accused by prosecutor Seo Ji-hyun of sexually assaulting her in 2010, was brought in for questioning at the Seoul Eastern District Prosecutors’ Office on Monday.

Ahn, a former senior prosecutor, was forced to leave his position last year, after it was revealed that he bribed prosecutors investigating a corruption scandal involving former President Park Geun-hye. He was serving as the Justice Ministry director in charge of criminal affairs at the time.

The questioning on Monday lasted about 14 hours.

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com)