Un­der-fire Ja­pan jour­nal­ist meets PM af­ter S. Korea lifts travel ban

The China Post - - GUIDE POST -

A Ja­panese jour­nal­ist on trial in Seoul for al­legedly de­fam­ing South Korean Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye met the Ja­panese pre­mier Wed­nes­day, a day af­ter his travel ban was eased.

Tat­suya Kato, the for­mer Seoul bureau chief of Ja­pan's con­ser­va­tive Sankei Shimbun news­pa­per, ar­rived in Tokyo Tues­day evening af­ter Seoul lifted an eight-month-old or­der bar­ring him from leav­ing South Korea.

Af­ter a 20-minute meet­ing with Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe, Kato told re­porters he was “thank­ful for the Ja­panese gov­ern­ment's ef­forts” and “for en­cour­ag­ing him.”

Kato said Abe had asked him “to take care of him­self” since he must re­turn to court later to face the cul­mi­na­tion of a trial over a col­umn he wrote about Park's where­abouts on the day the Se­wol ferry sank a year ago with the loss of more than 300 lives.

Ja­pan's top gov­ern­ment spokesman Yoshi­hide Suga told a press con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day that Tokyo “will con­tinue to call on South Korea to take ap­pro­pri­ate steps.”

Kato's col­umn, pub­lished in the on­line edi­tion of the Sankei in Au­gust, sug­gested the un­mar­ried pres­i­dent had dis­ap­peared for an ill-timed tryst with her for­mer aide on the day of the ferry tragedy.

Kato was banned from

leav­ing South Korea shortly af­ter the ar­ti­cle was pub­lished. He is due to ap­pear in court again on April 20. Kato has de­nied crim­i­nal li­bel, a crime pun­ish­able by up to seven years in pri­son.

He has in­sisted his ob­jec­tive had been to re­port the public per­cep­tion of Park in the wake of the Se­wol dis­as­ter.

South Korean defama­tion law fo­cuses on whether what was said or writ­ten was in the public in­ter­est — rather than whether it was true.

Me­dia free­dom group Re­porters With­out Bor­ders has de­fended the Sankei jour­nal­ist, while Ja­pan has for­mally voiced grave con­cern at Kato's pros­e­cu­tion and ques­tioned Seoul's com­mit­ment to press free­dom.

The Sankei, a ro­bust cen­ter-right daily that has cam­paigned to re­verse a Ja­panese apol­ogy for forc­ing Korean women into wartime broth­els, has sug­gested it is be­ing sin­gled out by Korean au­thor­i­ties.

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