A Japanese reporter cleared of defaming South Korean President Park Geun-hye last year filed a criminal compensation suit against the government recently, according to legal sources.
Tatsuya Kato, former Seoul bureau chief for Japanese right-wing daily Sankei Shimbun, on March 18 demanded financial compensation to cover legal costs and transport fees incurred while standing trial in Korea.
Tatsuya Kato (Yonhap)
Under the country’s criminal law, the wrongly accused, whose charges are cleared in court, can demand the government pay compensation for their financial damage and mental stress. The accused can pursue the rights within five years of the ruling.
Kato was indicted in October 2014 for defaming Park with an online article published in August 2014. In the article, Kato reported rumors that the unmarried president might have been absent for seven hours to secretly meet her former aide Jeong Yun-hoe at the time of the sinking of Sewol ferry on April 16.
The rumors garnered public attention as the Park administration was blamed for the delayed and botched rescue operation during the ferry disaster. The nation’s worst maritime accident killed 304 people, most of whom were teenagers on a school trip.
Kato cited press freedom in a democratic society and said that he had only cited rumors circulating online. Prosecutors had argued that Kato had intended to libel Park and made little effort to verify the facts.
The lowest court acquitted him of the defamation charge last December, citing the freedom of speech to criticize the nation’s leader under the Constitution.
The acquittal was confirmed as the prosecutors did not appeal.