Japan criticizes jail demand for reporter in South Korea

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Tokyo (dpa) – Japan on Tuesday expressed regret over a prison term sought by South Korea for a Japanese journalist for alleged libel against South Korean President Park Geun Hye.

It was “extremely regrettable,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.

“In light of freedom of the press and expression, as well as Japan-South Korean relations, we have repeatedly conveyed our concern and strongly called for appropriate responses from the South Korean government.”

Suga said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may raise the issue during a scheduled trip to Seoul in November for a three-way summit with South Korea and China.

On Monday, South Korean prosecutors said they were seeking an 18-month jail term for Tatsuya Kato, a former bureau chief of the Sankei daily in South Korea, on charges of defaming Park in his article in August 2014.

The Seoul Central District Court is set to hand down its ruling on the case on November 26.

Kato’s article suggested Park was away from her office in a secret rendezvous with a divorced former aide for a seven-hour period on the day of a fatal ferry sinking, an allegation Park denies.

Kato has denied any wrongdoing.

The Sewol ferry sank on April 16 in 2014, killing more than 300 people and leading to public criticism of Seoul’s handling of the tragedy.

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