Former Sankei Seoul Bureau Chief Awaits Sentence after Prosecutors Demand 18-month Imprisonment / Surviving Family Members of Sewol Disaster Also Desire Answers over the “Missing 7 Hours”【10月30日掲載記事の英語版】

Tatsuya Kato, the former Sankei Shimbun Seoul Bureau Chief

The Korean prosecutors have sought an 18-month imprisonment for Tatsuya Kato, the former Sankei Shimbun Seoul Bureau Chief, on charges of defamation over his online article about Korean President Park Geun-hye. The sentence from the court in Seoul is due to be delivered on November 26.

According to the Japan Fixers & Journalists Network interviews, many journalists in Korea share a common feeling of a threat against press freedom in their own country, offering critiques such as:

—“If the court hands down a sentence of imprisonment in November, it will manifest the shame of Korea toward the world”

—“I did not imagine that freedom of expression in Korea would become degraded to that level”

—“The news media are not the spokespeople for the President”

—“That incident reflects directly the current reality of the Republic of Korea”

Kim Chung Kyu, deputy chief editor of Tanzi Daily News Media, who had once been called as a witness because of his article about the president during the election campaign, observed: “Certainly the image of Sankei Shimbun in Korea is negative. Many journalists, including me, judged that the content of the article by Kato is not credible and is just based on rumors. Despite that, the significance of a president of a country prosecuting Kato and taking advantage of legal power is that it sends a message saying ‘regardless of left, center, or conservative, all media in Korea must be silent about this case.’ If this sort of oppressive atmosphere continues, the government cannot guarantee that even the conservative media will support the President. It is exactly the sort of behavior that might alienate her own followers.”

Kim Ou Joon, a political lampoonist, offers his view as follows: “Kato is a scapegoat of the government. By hanging him as an example to the others, the government wants to silence the voices of the Korean media. Their intention was to send a message to the entire Korean press: ‘Nobody is allowed to talk about her missing 7 hours and her responsibility for failing to rescue the victims during the Sewol ferry disaster.’”

He added, “The Blue House did not say anything against the Chosun Ilbo which wrote a similar article before Kato did. This is because they wanted to avoid a war against Korea’s No. 1 newspaper, and instead chose the Sankei Shimbun to make an example of. Their wish was that anti-Japan sentiment would help cover up their cowardly, malicious intentions.”

Kim himself has been prosecuted several times over his popular podcast programs regarding the younger brother of the President. In his case, prosecutors sought a two-and-a-half year sentence, but last December he was judged not guilty by the court.

Family members of the Sewol victims have also expressed concerns about the prosecution of Kato.

“What was the President doing for those missing seven hours while my only son was drowning to death and there was no rescue? I desire to know everything about the accident.” These are the words of the father of a 17-year-old son whose body was the first to be found after the ferry accident.

A volunteer in fundraising efforts for the victims added, “Kato just did the correct thing as a journalist to question about the missing seven hours of the President.”

Paris-based international NGO Reporters Without Borders harshly condemned the prosecution demands in a press release of October 19: “Prosecuting a journalist for questioning the president’s actions is inconceivable in a state that regards itself a democracy.”


On April 16, 2012, the Sewol ferry sank, resulting in the confirmed deaths of 295 people, with 9 others still missing. Many of the victims were high school students.

Tatsuya Kato’s article was headlined: “President Park Geun-hye Went Missing on the Day of the Ferry Sinking… Who Did She Meet?” This story elicited angry reactions from the President’s supporters. The prosecution was the result of a complaint filed by a nationalist group.

The rumors found in Kato’s article had previously been reported on various other websites, including that of the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo. No complaints were brought against the authors of these reports.

To this day the questions about President Park Geun-hye’s “missing seven hours” remain unanswered.

(Report/Photo by Makiko Segawa, Japan Correspondent of “Reporters Without Borders” and head of the Japan Fixers & Journalists Network)






「産経新聞のイメージは韓国国内では確かに悪い。今度の記事も噂レベルのあまり信頼できないものだと判断している。しかし、一国の大統領が法の力を利用してまで加藤氏を追い詰め起訴したことは、この問題について左派・中道・保守に関係なく“メディアはみんな黙っていろ”という意味に他ならない。 このような雰囲気が続くならば、保守の言論機関もこの先ずっと大統領側に立っているかどうかの保障はない。自分の味方をも切り捨てる行為ではないだろうか」











加藤氏による記事の発表以前に 『朝鮮日報』が 、事故当日の大統領の空白の7時間に関して疑問を提起していたが、朝鮮日報の記者に対して訴訟は起こされていない。その後、この空白の7時間は「触れてはならない聖域」などと言われ、 韓国内で本格的な調査報道はされていない。