SEOUL – A court in Seoul on Friday rejected a petition by a Japanese newspaper journalist accused of defaming South Korea’s president that demanded he be allowed to leave the country, informed sources said.
Before the decision, the administrative court heard arguments from the journalist, Tatsuya Kato, who wants a travel ban imposed on him by the South Korean justice minister to be lifted, and from the Justice Ministry, which asked that the ban be kept in place.
The justice minister barred Kato, 48, from leaving South Korea last August, after his newspaper, the Sankei Shimbun, published an article by Kato online that South Korean prosecutors determined was defamatory.
The travel ban has been renewed eight times, most recently for a period of three months through April 15.
Kato, who is not under arrest, is being tried at Seoul Central District Court for allegedly defaming Park in an article on her whereabouts during the Korean ferry disaster last April that killed more than 300 people.
Kato, the newspaper’s former Seoul bureau chief, pleaded not guilty, and the decision is expected to take several months.
While Kato sought a provisional injunction for the travel ban in his petition to the administrative court, he has also filed a lawsuit against the justice minister to have the travel ban nullified. No date for the suit’s first hearing has been set yet.