National / Politics

Sankei Seoul bureau chief grilled over Park article


The Seoul bureau chief of the daily Sankei Shimbun appeared Monday at the Seoul Central District Prosecutor’s Office after being summoned over the alleged defamation of President Park Geun-hye.

Tatsuya Kato arrived at around 11 a.m. and entered with a defense lawyer and translator. The questioning was expected to focus on whether an article written by Kato, 48, defamed Park. The office has issued a travel ban on Kato.

A conservative civic organization filed a defamation suit against the bureau on Aug. 9 for the article, which was carried in the online edition of the conservative daily on Aug. 3.

Citing rumors in the stock brokerage industry and a South Korean newspaper, Kato suggested in the article that Park, who is single, was not at the presidential office during a seven-hour period on the day in April when the Sewol ferry capsized off the country’s southwest coast and may have been secretly meeting with a recently divorced former aide. Around 300 people perished in the accident.

The presidential office has dismissed the rumors and the article.

Sankei Shimbun said in a statement that its report was based on information contained in statements made in South Korea’s National Assembly and in a column in a South Korean newspaper.

The questioning by South Korean prosecutors of a Japanese journalist over reporting activities was the first since 1993, when the then-bureau chief of Japan’s Fuji Television was arrested by prosecutors on suspicion of receiving classified military intelligence from a South Korean naval intelligence officer. He was convicted and deported the following year.