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Sankei reporter’s South Korea prosecution excessive: U.S. journalist

JIJI

A freelance U.S. journalist testified in a Seoul court that South Korea’s indictment of Japanese reporter Tatsuya Kato for allegedly defaming President Park Geun-hye was excessive.

Donald Kirk, 77, was testifying Monday at the Seoul Central District Court as a witness for Kato, 49, a former Seoul bureau chief for the Sankei Shimbun.

The trial is to close after two more sessions, set for July 27 and Aug. 17, the presiding judge said. A ruling could be delivered as early as September. The trial started last November following Kato’s indictment the month before.

In Monday’s hearing, Kirk said that Kato’s column simply cited a rumor and was thus not intended to defame Park.

The rumor, which initially appeared in the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo, suggested that Park met secretly with a man on April 16 last year, when the South Korean ferry Sewol sank, leaving more than 300 people dead or missing. Park’s whereabouts for seven hours that day were reportedly unknown.

Kirk stressed that correspondents of foreign media organizations often cite news content reported by the South Korean media when writing their own articles.

In some cases, foreign correspondents cite local media reports without checking the authenticity of these reports depending on their news value, he said, adding that they are required to write their stories based on their experience and judgment.

Kato’s column was of little significance on its own, but it drew a great deal of attention after it became the matter of a criminal case, Kirk said.