Seoul prosecutors seek jail term for Japanese journalist

Seoul, Oct 20 (IANS) South Korean prosecutors sought an 18-month jail term for a Japanese journalist charged with defaming President Park Geun-hye in print, the media reported.

Prosecutors on Monday argued that Tatsuya Kato, former Seoul bureau chief for Sankei Shimbun, intentionally published baseless rumours in August 2014 that Park might have been with her former aide, Jeong Yun-hoe, at the time of the sinking of the Sewol ferry, one of South Korea’s worst maritime disasters, Yonhap News Agency reported.

The sentencing is scheduled for November 26.

Prosecutors also noted that there was no evidence that the rumours on Park’s whereabouts on the day of the capsize were true, and that Kato simply wanted to write about Park’s relationship with a man in the name of public interest.

They added that Kato made no efforts to verify those rumours and has not been able to provide evidence to suggest they could actually be true, other than a column in Chosun Ilbo, South Korea’s largest daily.

The column published in July 2014 said Park’s whereabouts on April 16, 2014, were unknown for seven hours, sparking rumours that she might have been with a man at an undisclosed location.

The 6,825-tonne ferry sank off the country’s southwestern coast near the island of Jindo en route to the southern resort island of Jeju.

As many as 304 people, mostly students on a field trip, have been confirmed dead, while nine remain untraced so for. A total of 157 survived.

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