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Japanese reporter wins state compensation

Feb 21,2018
A Seoul court ordered the state Tuesday to pay 7 million won ($6,548) in compensation to a Japanese journalist who was acquitted of defaming ousted President Park Geun-hye in a news article about her whereabouts at the time of a deadly ferry sinking in 2014.

The Seoul Central District Court accepted part of the compensation claim filed by Kato Tatsuya, a former Seoul bureau chief of the Sankei Shimbun. It ruled that the state has to redeem the defendant’s expenses, including legal fees, transportation and accommodation costs in the wake of the acquittal. Kato had requested 19 million won.

Kato, 52, was indicted in August 2014 by the South Korean state prosecution for libel after he wrote a story about Park in the conservative Japanese print media.

In the news article, he raised questions over Park’s unaccounted whereabouts in the morning of April 16, 2014, when a ferry was sinking in waters off the country’s southwestern coast. The accident killed more than 300 passengers and her government’s alleged mishandling of the tragedy, along with her unexplained seven-hour absence, later became one of the triggers that led to Park’s impeachment and eventually her removal from office early last year.

Kato was accused of defaming Park in that he insinuated a romantic relationship with her former aide Chung Yoon-hoe, speculating that this was what had kept her away from duty on the day of the ship sinking.

The same Seoul court found him not guilty of the charge, ruling that the content of Kato’s article lies within the realm of public interest and freedom of press.

Prosecutors did not appeal the ruling and Kato filed for state compensation in 2016.

Yonhap