SEOUL – The Sankei Shimbun’s former Seoul bureau chief said he will stick to his guns during the trial over his alleged defamation of South Korean President Park Geun-hye.
“I fully explained to prosecutors about my story’s points as well as the reporting method, but they didn’t listen to me at all,” Tatsuya Kato, who was indicted on the charge Wednesday without being arrested, told media organizations in Seoul on Friday.
“I will stress this during the upcoming trial and hope to win a not-guilty ruling,” he said.
Kato has been banned from leaving South Korea due to the allegations.
On Friday, about 100 people staged a protest against the right-leaning newspaper in front of the building housing its Seoul bureau.
In the story in question, which mainly cited South Korean media stories and securities industry sources, Kato reported rumors that Park may have secretly met with a man during her reported seven-hour absence on April 16, when a South Korean ferry sank off its southern coast, killing over 300 passengers. The article was published on the newspaper’s Web site in early August.
“The president is the elected official with supreme power” in South Korea, Kato said. “As head of a democratic country, she should accept critical commentaries.
“I believe my story served the public interest,” Kato insisted.
“There were discussions in South Korea about what the president was doing during the seven hours, and various rumors spread while the South Korean government failed to give an explanation about it. I tried to inform Japanese readers about the situation,” he said.
Freedom of press “appears to be decreasing” in South Korea, Kato said. “I have heard that some people in the South Korean administration hate the Sankei Shimbun, so I think this could possibly be one of the factors that led to my indictment.”