Shame on the prosecutionVictim shaming, sexual abuse and harassment do not just take place in Hollywood. In Korea, these have occurred in one of the most law-abiding and defending places — the prosecutorial community. Seo Ji-hyeon, a prosecutor with the Tongyeong branch of the Changwon District Prosecutors’ Office, broke her silence by speaking about the offense and injustice in state prosecution on JTBC news.
According to her post on the prosecution electronic bulletin and interview, she was groped and molested by a senior co-worker at a funeral in 2010. When she formally complained, a senior official at the Justice Ministry ordered a cover-up and transferred her to a regional office in 2015.
The alleged offender, Ahn Tae-geun, who was dismissed from the Justice Ministry in June last year for giving out cash envelopes to subordinates, said he would apologize although he could not recall the affair. Rep. Choi Gyo-il of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, who was the justice ministry’s criminal bureau chief at the time, denied knowledge of the affair or involvement.
According to Seo’s account, her peers at the funeral witnessed the incident. It is outrageous that law enforcement officers chose to turn a blind eye to a crime against one of their own. But it is also not surprising, as the prosecution has long been lenient on sexual crimes committed by members in the community. Prosecutors have walked away with light disciplinary action for harassment and illicit advances towards female journalists and staff. Many cases were hushed and muffled up. Few led to convictions. The prosecution remains male-dominated and hierarchical.
After Seo’s case became public, the prosecution claimed that such offenses are unimaginable in today’s environment. Gender equality has improved and the glass ceiling is being removed. Still, deep-seated elitism remains intact as the Justice Ministry denies any problems in Seo’s transfer. Prosecutor General Moon Moo-il vowed to get to the bottom of the case and he must stay true to his promise in order to restore the name of the state prosecution.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 31, Page 30