Commentator arrested for libel over evidence in Park scandal

By Kim So-hyun
  • Published : May 30, 2018 - 15:17
  • Updated : May 30, 2018 - 15:17

A right-wing commentator was arrested on Wednesday for libel against a cable television news anchor and reporters who uncovered an influence-peddling scandal involving former President Park Geun-hye.

The Seoul Central District Court issued a warrant to detain Byun Hee-jae, citing the risk that he may destroy evidence and potentially cause harm to the victims.

Byun, 44, is accused of spreading false information by writing on his online media outlet and recent book that broadcaster JTBC fabricated the files in a tablet PC to make it look like it was used by Choi Soon-sil, Park’s longtime friend at the center of the scandal that led to Park‘s ouster last year.

Conservative polemist Byun Hee-jae speaks to reporters ahead of his arraignment for alleged slandering of a news anchor and TV journalists on May 29, 2018. (Yonhap)

JTBC reported in 2016 that it obtained the device which belonged to Choi and contained confidential government documents, indicating her meddling in state affairs. The tablet PC was used as key evidence in the conviction of Choi and Park.

The Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office requested the warrant as JTBC anchor Sohn Suk-hee and the reporters as well as their families felt threatened.

Byun and his readers held rallies in front of Sohn’s residence and the church Sohn’s wife attended. Byun also warned that Sohn “could be murdered by the forces trying to conceal the truth if he doesn’t reveal the truth himself.” Byun denied the libel charges, claiming he was raising reasonable suspicions.

By Kim So-hyun (