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S. Korean's #MeToo initiator welcomes jailing of man she accused

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Seoul (AFP)

The woman who started South Korea's #MeToo movement said Thursday she hoped other victims will take heart from the jailing of the senior prosecutor she accused of assault.

Seo Ji-hyun said she was groped by her superior Ahn Tae-geun at a funeral in 2010, and that he had her transferred from Seoul to a provincial position after she filed an internal complaint, blighting her career.

She suffered in silence for years until she went on television last January, a rare public accusation in a still conservative society where female victims of sexual assault are often reluctant to come forward for fear of shaming.

It triggered a flood of similar accusations against powerful men in fields ranging from art and literature to politics and religion that grew into a South Korean #MeToo movement.

Ahn could not be charged with sexual assault because the one-year statute of limitations had expired, but was convicted of abuse of power on Wednesday and sentenced to two years in prison.

"I hope this verdict can give a sense of hope and comfort to other victims of sexual violence who suffer in silence," a tearful Seo told reporters in Seoul.

"I want to tell them that even if it may take a long time, truth will always win in the end."

She had been deeply hurt by her organisation's reaction to her television interview, she said.

"I was shamed and maliciously labelled a 'traitor' and 'crazy woman' by my colleagues for speaking out against a fellow prosecutor," she told reporters.

"My experience is not an isolated case," she went on. "This must stop right now."

She claimed about 20 of her colleagues gave investigators false testimony as they sought to defend Ahn, who was separately fired for corruption in 2017.

Seo has been on sick leave since the television interview but said she plans to return to the prosecutors' office once her health improves.

"My life goal has always been, and still the same," she said. "I want to be a prosecutor who serves justice and fights for truth."

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