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Prosecutor Seo looks back on #MeToo movement in Korea

More changes are needed in society to root out sexual violence, said Seo Ji-hyun on Tuesday, a year after she publicly accused her former boss of groping her in a TV interview, igniting the #MeToo movement here.

“Victims of sexual violence have suffered, as society takes sides with perpetrators while criticizing victims,” the 45-year-old prosecutor said at a roundtable at the National Assembly on Tuesday.

“The era in which victims have to sacrifice themselves to speak the truth and justice should end.”

Prosecutor Seo Ji-hyun speaks during a roundtable at the National Assembly on Tuesday (Yonhap)
Prosecutor Seo Ji-hyun speaks during a roundtable at the National Assembly on Tuesday (Yonhap)

On Jan. 29, 2018, Seo disclosed that former senior prosecutor Ahn Tae-geun had groped her at a funeral in 2010 and later discriminated against her in job assignments.

The Seoul Central District Court on Wednesday sentenced Ahn to two years in jail for unfairly transferring Seo to a provincial position after she reported the case to superiors at the prosecutors’ office.

“Eight years and three months have passed since the sexual abuse occurred, and it took three years and five months for the court to hand down the guilty verdict (on Ahn) for the unfair job assignments,” Seo said.

“It was a harsh and life-threatening journey to reveal the truth, but I had to do it as a victim and a prosecutor.”

Seo went on to say that a few factors have troubled her since she came forward with her accusations, with many victims experiencing similar problems.

“The first thing is that the prosecutor’s office tried to conceal the case to protect the group, rather than investigating the truth. It bothered me that prosecutors, who should be more righteous than anybody else, did such things.”

Furthermore, many victims face additional harm caused partly by society.

“After I revealed the case, many people raised suspicions that I was trying to engage in politics or I had problems related to job performance and relationships with others. Sexual abuse in our society will never be eradicated if such additional harm continues,” she said.

Seo added that people are often too lenient toward perpetrators while victims feel trapped.

“There is nothing that can force victims to ‘act like a victim.’ They are the people who should become happier more than anyone else. Also, the media should care about protecting victims, instead of focusing on reporting cases sensationally.”

Rep. Cho Jeong-sik, who attended the roundtable session, vowed that the legislative body will make efforts to discuss the protection of victims of sexual violence.

By Park Ju-young (