[Press Conference] Ministry of Justice and Prosecution Service Should Thoroughly Investigate the Sexual Violence Incident within the Organization and Take Action! —Simultaneous press conference in the sixteen regions across the country urging the investigation of the sexual violence incident in the Prosecution Service

 

 

 

In January 29th, 2018, Prosecutor Seo Jihyun disclosed that she had suffered sexual violence eight years ago by a high-ranking executive in the Ministry of Justice, but had never been apologized but rather disadvantaged in promotion. We wholeheartedly support Prosecutor Seo who took her courage on behalf of all of us.

 

In February 1st, Korean Women Workers Association and regional branches, in company with Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center, United Korea Women’s Association, United Korean YWCA, and Committee of Women’s Rights of the Lawyers for a Democratic Society, held simultaneous press conferences in front of the Supreme Prosecution Service and sixteen regional Prosecution Services to urge the investigation of the intra-organizational sexual violence incident. Korean Women Workers Association made a speech at the press conference held in front of the Supreme Prosecution Service.

 

 

 

 

[Speech] Gender Equal Justice for the Prosecutor Seo Jihyun!

Lim Yunok (Standing Representative of the Korean Women Workers Association)

 

Everyone must have seen the prosecutor’s interview. I was in tears watching her putting stress on every word. I could tell how difficult it was for her to take heart to speak out and how brave she was to burden the responsibility to speak out. She has heard a lot of resigned voices, such as “It is easy to fabricate you as a crazy bitch. Just be quiet and work hard.” “If you want to live as a prosecutor for a long time, you had better get good evaluation from your bosses.” But prosecutor Seo stood up. I truthfully appreciate her courage to make all the women to witness the power of a dignified survivor and to voice ourselves with our own courage.

 

Prosecutor Seo said in the interview: “Even though I was the victim of the sexual violence, I have blamed myself for the eight years. I thought I was suffering the shameful incident because I might have done something wrong. Thus, I am here today to tell the victims that it is not their fault. It took me eight years to realize that.”

 

Yes. The perpetrator Ahn Taegeun, the then Director of the Office of Policy Development of the Ministry of Justice, insisted that “I don’t remember. It was a long time ago.” The Ministry of Justice articulated that “There was no problem in the personnel system.” While the perpetrator has promoted to the Director of Criminal Affairs Bureau and enjoyed power, the victim had to spend eight years to realize that it was not her fault. We all know that the eight years must have been an ongoing torture for her.

 

How gruesome it is. As a taxpayer, as a citizen who expects the Prosecution Service to be righteous, and as a social activist who has claimed for years that sexual assault is violence, I am miserable. What is the Prosecution Service for? It is a state organization which is meant to actualize justice. It is the Prosecution Service that investigate and penalize sexual violence. The incident happened in a funeral. There was the Minister of Justice right nearby. And many other prosecutors were witnessing the scene. However, that sexual violence has been concealed for eight years. I am miserable.

 

That’s not all. Prosecutor Seo hesitated to disclose this incident concerning it might cause trouble to the organization. Moreover, she has received not an apology but disadvantages within the organization, including anomalous administrative inspection, warning from the Prosecutor General, deprivation of prosecuting discretion, and unusual personnel appointment. She had twice earned achievement awards as an excellent prosecutor, but after the incident she has suffered all these disadvantages by male high-ranking executives who wanted to conceal this violence.

 

What is the problem? What made the organization of the Prosecution Service decay as such? What or Who gave the right to them to overrule the Constitution, Labor Standards Act, Gender Equal Employment Opportunity Act?

 

I think it is the unbreakable power of the upper 1%. “I have received the achievement award twice, which is hard for anyone to receive even once in a life time. My service has been selected as an exemplary case once every few months and got rewarded. But these achievements have not really been reflected in the personnel assessment. I have seen a lot of cases, in which incapable male prosecutors get awarded or promoted to good positions in spite of female prosecutors’ better performance.” As prosecutor Seo said as such, if personnel system and reward system are not transparent, it could always be easy to manipulate the organization and disadvantage the powerless people. The personnel assessment system itself is sexist. Sexism at work cannot be removed until the personnel system becomes righteous and transparent, tearing down the mutually-protecting male power structure.

 

Prosecutor Seo said that now she knows there is no other way to voice herself to the people who ignore the powerless and patron-less prosecutor’s cry.

 

Now we declare. Prosecutor Seo, you are not alone. We hear you. We sympathize you in solidarity. We will fight for the end of sexual violence at work to help out women lacking patrons and power within state institutions like the Prosecution Service.

 

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Press Conference]

In response to the sexual violence within the Prosecution Service,

We support prosecutor Seo’s courage!

We urge the investigation without any sanctuary!

 

  

In October 2010, one female prosecutor was sexually harassed by an executive of the Ministry of Justice in a funeral. After the incident, she had not received any apology from the perpetrator but rather received unconvincing disadvantages at work, such as anomalous administrative inspection, warning from the Prosecutor General, deprivation of prosecuting discretion, and unusual personnel appointment. The victim disclosed this incident to the press in January 29th, 2018. Her interview exposed the judicial institutions’ unjust attempt to conceal the incident and to suppress her by disadvantages in the personnel system.

 

After the sexual harassment, the victim naïvely thought she could keep working in the organization without any problem if she worked hard. However, the continuous disadvantages at work have her blaming herself for not officially filing a complaint and realizing that no reform can be initiated if the victim keeps silenced. She said, “I am here today to tell the victims that it is not their fault.” We need to think about how our society should comprehend the prosecutor Seo’s courage. We argue as below.

 

First, thoroughly investigate the incident.

Ministry of Justice made a remark in January 29th, 2018 that it was difficult to grasp the details of the sexual harassment incident of eight years ago, and that there was no problem on paper about the personnel assessment of the victim. We raise questions how the comprehension of the details of the sexual harassment incident of eight years ago can be done as quickly as such, whether they thoroughly and sincerely investigated the incident or not, and how much the victim’s testimony was reflected in the investigation. In response to the critical public opinion, the Ministry of Justice articulated on 30th that they would carefully examine the issue and take measures, and created an investigation team on 31st. However, we think the investigation team consisting only of prosecutors is not enough for righteous inspection. We urge the establishment of the Committee for Special Investigation including civilian experts. Furthermore, we urge the establishment of the High-Ranking Public Officials’ Corruption Investigation Agency, which would be the foundation for righteous investigation procedure.

 

Second, no more re-victimization.

We clearly remember the Supreme Court’s sentencing remarks in December 2017 on the sexual harassment incident in the Renault Samsung Motors. It says, “What victim experienced should be admitted as disadvantage, if there were the circumstances which reflect the company’s intention of oppressing the victim’s official complaint.” It is a declaratory warning towards the re-victimization, including counteraccusation, retaliation, disadvantage, and ostracizing/bullying. If “there was no problem on paper” as the Ministry of Justice insisted, we need to delve into what makes it possible that there was no problem. There work conventional biases against victim, such as “the victim must have induced the incident,” or “the victim slanders male rival to get promoted or to dig some money.” We need to think hard to eliminate these sorts logic of exclusion of women at work.

 

Third, we urge deep introspection and concrete efforts for gender equality within the Prosecution Service.

Korean Association of Sexual Violence Relief Centers’ 2017 evaluation on “facilitators and obstacles” of righteous inspections on sexual violence concludes that the Prosecution Service occupies 6 obstacles out of 10. It reveals the Prosecution Service’s general attitude and perspective toward sexual violence cases and victims. According to Korean Sexual Violence Relief Center’s 2003 research on the gender awareness and gender equality education of the people in the legal profession, 80% answered “Yes” to the entry “Sexual violence cases have more false accusation for the purpose of money.” In comparing these two researches, we can see that the misunderstanding of sexual violence and sexual victims has not been improved over the last fifteen years. Prosecution Service should be responsible for the detailed measures to improve gender awareness within the organization, such as gender equality education and exhaustive inspection on the sexual violence incident among the members. It is indispensable not only for no more such incident in the Prosecution Service but also for righteous inspection and prevention of sexual violence in the entire Korean society.

 

Over the last thirty years, Korean society has witnessed sexual victims’ speaking as well as the resulting changes in law, institutions, and social consciousness. However, many victims are still forced to choose to keep silenced, to conceal the incident, or to leave the communities. Only in a mutually-trusting society where victims do not have to leave the communities because of their official complaints can sincere change begin. The victim prosecutor Seo might have taken her courage based on her trust of the changing society represented by the so-called feminist president and the Prosecution Reformation Committee. Victims publicly break the silence not only because they realize there is no personal or institutional way to resolve their suffer, but also because they trust the members of the society to help them. Now we declare our wholehearted support for the prosecutor Seo who bravely stood up on behalf of all of us. We will stand on her side. We will monitor and urge the Prosecution Service to recover trust from the powerless people in the society and to actualize justice.

 

Now we demand:

 

Prosecution Service should thoroughly investigate the incident with a Committee for Special Investigation including civilian experts!

 

Ministry of Justice should establish the High-Ranking Public Officials’ Corruption Investigation Agency and thoroughly inspect the high-ranking public officials’ offences!

 

Prosecution Service should come up with the detailed measures to improve gender awareness within the organization, such as gender equality education and exhaustive inspection on the sexual violence incident among the members!

 

Prosecution Service should improve its member’s competency to investigate sexual violence incident by gender equality education!

 

Stop suspecting and blaming the victim and prevent re-victimization!

 

2018. 2. 1.

Posted by KWWA