In an age where governments around the globe are employing various methods to keep tabs on their citizens in the name of national security, it’s never been more important to have an empowered Fourth Estate, or press. The ability to ask the hard questions and present relative information is key to keeping the public informed and hold government officials accountable for their actions.
When the Sewol ferry sank on the morning of April 16, many wondered why the nation’s response was so poor. In fact, opposition lawmakers asked in Parliament where President Park Geun-hye was during the critical morning hours. That line of questioning led Tatsuya Kato, former Seoul bureau chief for the Sankei Shimbun, to take up the investigation based on rumors alluded to in a Chosun Ilbo article printed in July.
After releasing his online-only story where he disclosed the rumor of Park being romantically involved at the time of the sinking, the president lashed out, saying Kato’s article was a deliberate attempt to undermine her position, an investigation into Kato ensued, and on October 8th, he was indicted for defaming the President.
Every nation has their own laws regarding libel and defamation. To help put this story into context, Andrew Salmon, Seoul reporter, author of Modern Korea: All That Matters, and Korea Times columnist explains South Korea’s defamation law and how it affects journalism in South Korea.
To be sure, Kato basing a report solely on a rumor was irresponsible, but the subject was germane to the line of questioning opened during Parliament. The decision to prosecute Kato makes Park’s office look petty, anti-press freedom, and anti-Japanese, since no action was taken against Korean news sources.
Where do you side on this issue? Did Kato defame South Korean President Park Geun-hye under Korean law or did the Blue House use its power to silence a reporter?© Japan Today