Chosun Ilbo loses Jang Ja-yeon related lawsuits

Posted on : 2011-12-01 10:15 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Court says remarks by two opposition lawmakers are protected

By Roh Hyun-woong 


The Chosun Ilbo faced a double loss Wednesday in lawsuits filed against National Assembly members and a news organization for allegations regarding the “Jang Ja-yeon list” controversy that exploded in March of this year.

The 14th civil division of Seoul Central District Court ruled against the newspaper Wednesday in a lawsuit claiming 500 million won ($438,712) each from Democratic Party Lawmaker Lee Jong-kul and Democratic Labor Party Chairwoman Lee Jung-hee for “damage to our president’s reputation.”

The court said that Lee Jong-kul’s remarks at the plenary session of the National Assembly were “subject to the privilege of exemption from liability because, as a simple opinion on the inadequacy of the police investigation, they were closely connected with his duties as a National Assembly member.”

The court went on to say that Lee Jung-hee’s remarks during a debate “appear to have had the public interest in mind, as she was addressing a situation of social interest related to a public figure who is well known to the public as the head of the country’s largest newspaper.”

“This cannot be viewed as a violation of the law,” the court concluded.

The two lawmakers were sued after marking remarks indicating that Chosun Ilbo President Bang Sang-hoon was included on the list as having received drinking hostess services from Jang Ja-yeon.

Jang, an actress, composed the list prior to her March 2009 suicide.

That same day, the court‘s 25th civil division ruled against the Chosun Ilbo in another suit requesting 800 million won in damages from MBC and former “News Desk” anchor Shin Kyoung-min.

The court said, “When proof or reliable evidence exists that a news medium’s report for the public interest is accurate, it cannot be viewed as being in violation of the law.”

The court also said, “There are cases when the question of truth is unclear at the time of the expressive act [reporting] but can be determined following debate or review in court.”

“If we punish [this act] simply because of the possibility that it might have been judged false at a later date, it would have a chilling effect on the exercise of freedom of expression, a basic right,” the court added.

Jang was an actress who exposed suspicions of sexual exploitation of entertainers when she committed suicide at the age of 29, alleging coercion to provide sexual services to executives of the entertainment industry, major corporations, financial institutions, and media outlets. In March of this year, letters reportedly written by Jang implicating dozens of business executives, media mogals and entertainment industry heavyweights reignited a nationwide controversy. The controversy was quickly extinguished when the Gyeonggi Police Agency and the National Forensic Service (NFS) declared the letters to be forgeries.


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