SEOUL, Aug. 14 (UPI) -- Ahn Hee-jeong, former governor of South Korea's South Chungcheong Province, was found not guilty Tuesday of sexually assaulting his secretary.
Ahn was accused of repeatedly assaulting her, beginning last year. Ahn is the first high-profile figure to stand trial on sex abuse allegations since the #MeToo movement started in South Korea.
"The evidence provided by prosecutors wasn't enough to prove the violation of sexual freedom and whether [sexual acts] were done without consent," the Seoul Western District Court ruled Tuesday.
"I apologize to the Korean people. I feel ashamed. I've disappointed you. I will try to be reborn now. I'm ashamed and sorry," Ahn told reporters after the verdict.
In March, Ahn's former secretary, Kim Ji-eun, leveled the accusations in a television news interview.
Tuesday's verdict hearing was attended by Ahn supporters and women's rights groups. When the verdict was announced, Ahn's supporters hailed the victory -- while opposing advocates expressed shock.
"I feel outraged and I can't believe it," activist Lee Han told UPI. "This court failed to listen to the victim's voice and women's voices."
A joint committee of women's rights groups released a statement saying the court did not take into account victims' testimony and failed to read into complexities of the case.
"Such a narrow finding and judgment. It didn't even live up to latest court rulings on sexual abuse cases," the panel said.
Jeong Hye-sun, an attorney representing the former secretary, said the ruling is a setback for human rights in South Korea.
"The court ruling has only left disappointment to many silent victims of sexual abuse," she told reporters. "I have to question why is it so hard to listen to the victim's claim that there was no consent."
More than 80 men have been accused of sexual abuse since the #MeToo movement spread to South Korea months ago. Of those, 38 are under investigation or on trial, including former high-ranking justice ministry official Ahn Tae-geun and prominent film director Lee Yoon-taek.