Seoul: A former aide to South Korean President Park Geun-Hye has been charged with leaking a document on the president's personal life which triggered defamation suits against domestic and foreign media, prosecutors said today.
The internal presidential office document claimed that another former Park aide, Jeong Yun-Hoe, meddled in state affairs by receiving regular briefings from presidential officials despite having no official position in the administration.
Cho Eung-Cheon, a former presidential aide who quit the president's office last month, was charged with leaking the document, according to prosecutor Yoo Sang-Bum.
"Our investigation showed it (the document) was based on fabricated allegations," Yoo told a televised briefing.
The document was apparently authored by a police officer who worked in the president's office. The officer has been arrested and charged with copying the document and giving it to a businessman who eventually leaked it to the media.
The Segye Times, a Seoul-based daily, cited the document in November when it reported that Jeong had received regular briefings from senior presidential officials despite lacking an official position.
The presidential Blue House has insisted the document is inaccurate.
The latest charges come weeks after a trial opened against a Japanese journalist charged with criminal libel over an article written in August.
Tatsuya Kato, who until October 1 was bureau chief of Japan's conservative Sankei Shimbun newspaper, had written about Park's whereabouts on the day the Sewol passenger ferry sank in April with the loss of 300 lives.
The story picked up rumours circulating in the South Korean media and stock broker houses that unmarried Park had disappeared for a tryst with the same former aide, Jeong, at the time of the sinking.
South Korean defamation law focuses on whether what was said or written was in the public interest -- rather than whether it was true.
Media freedom group Reporters Without Borders has criticised the trial of the Japanese journalist, arguing that his report was clearly in the public interest.