After the U.S., China, Japan, and elsewhere across the globe, South Korea has begun its #MeToo movement with a civil servant coming forward to share her story.
In a television interview on January 29, public prosecutor Seo Ji-hyeon accused a former senior justice ministry official of groping her in front of other authorities at a funeral in 2010.
“Even though I was the victim, I suffered from a guilty conscience that I may have done something wrong,” The Korea Herald quoted Seo as saying.
“And it took me eight years to realize that it was not my fault. I came on this interview today to tell everyone and victims that it is not their fault.”
The alleged offender, Ahn Tae-geun, was sacked by the ministry in June 2017 for giving money to subordinates during a private dinner.
“I could not strongly express my refusal at the time because there were so many senior officials. And I could not believe it was really happening, I thought I was hallucinating.”
Seo also claimed that Choi Gyo-il, then chief of the ministry’s criminal affairs bureau, tried to cover up the incident.
After a questionable disciplinary warning, she was moved from Seoul to “an unwanted post” in the regional office in 2015.
A massive outcry followed Seo’s revelation, with thousands signing a petition that seeks “a swift launch of a fair investigation,” according to Yonhap News.
The Korean Women Law Association condemned Seo’s experience in a statement:
“It is deplorable that such criminal cases occurred inside the prosecution, where they uphold the values of justice and aim to protect the rights of victims.”
In response to Seo’s allegations, Ahn told reporters that he apologizes for “things that may have happened” but insisted that he does not remember anything as he was drunk at the time.
“I heard Ahn is telling others he became a believer and repented of his sins. But I want to tell him that he should really ask for forgiveness from the victims,” Seo said.
Meanwhile, Choi denied any involvement in Seo’s claims of a cover-up and her regional appointment.
Seo is not exactly the very first person in South Korea to reveal her #MeToo story. However, she is apparently the most high-profile, involving names of government officials.