Former prosecutor at center of #MeToo scandal acquitted in retrial of power abuse case
In a retrial of a power abuse case that sparked the #MeToo movement in 2018, a former senior prosecutor was acquitted of disadvantaging a junior colleague from work to cover up his sexual harassment of her.
The Seoul Central District Court's Appellate Division on Tuesday acquitted Ahn Tae-geun of the charges of abuse of power, overturning a two-year prison sentence delivered by the same court for him in July 2019.
The retrial came after the Supreme Court ordered the lower court in January to reconsider the prison sentence for the former prosecutor, saying his acts do not fully constitute abuse of power.
Ahn, who had also served as a bureau director at the justice ministry, was accused of groping Seo Ji-hyun, a female prosecutor, during a funeral dinner in 2010 and later reassigning her to an office in the southern coastal city of Tongyeong as rumors of his sexual abuse began to spread within the prosecution.
"It is difficult to view Seo's transfer to the prosecution's Tongyeong branch office as violating the principles and standards on prosecutorial personnel reshuffles," the court said in its acquittal ruling.
In January 2018, Seo revealed the incident at an interview with local broadcaster JTBC, triggering a series of similar statements by other women in various sectors, including politics, sports, and culture, which later evolved into a nationwide #MeToo movement.
A special investigative team that launched a probe following Seo's revelation in 2018 charged Ahn with abusing his power to influence the personnel reshuffle and relocate Seo, to prevent the allegations from spreading and hurting his reputation.
While Ahn denied his charges, a Seoul district court ruled in favor of Seo in early 2019, handing down a two-year jail term to him. Then the Seoul appellate court upheld the prison sentence in July of the same year.
The lower courts have acknowledged that the sexual abuse happened, but no legal decision could be made, as the deadline for a victim to accuse the perpetrator has expired. (Yonhap)