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Key politicians’ reactions to South Korea’s lifting of a departure ban on Sankei journalist

(Sankei: April 15, 2015 – p. 5)

 

 Japan’s ruling and opposition parties welcomed South Korea’s decision to lift a departure ban on Tatsuya Kato, former chief of The Sankei Shimbun’s Seoul Bureau, who was indicted without arrest for defaming South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

 

 Liberal Democratic Party General Council Chairman Toshihiro Nikai commented that he is relieved by the news. He met Park in February to directly solicit the release of the journalist. Yukio Edano, secretary-general of the Democratic Party of Japan, noted it was a welcome move. He also called on Seoul to resolve the issue during his visit to the country in November. Comments from key politicians follow:

 

 Toshihiro Nikai, General Council Chairman, LDP

 “People involved have been worried about this issue. I’m relieved that it has been resolved through mutual efforts put in by Japan and South Korea. The two countries need to work together to improve their friendship to prevent a recurrence of a similar incident.”

 

 Chuichi Date, Secretary-General for the LDP in the House of Councillors

 “President Park may have thought lifting the departure ban will help increase her popularity. She may have feared playing a hardball may affect South Korea’s relationships with Japan and the U.S.”

 

 Natsuo Yamaguchi, Chief Representative, Komeito Party

 “This will become a factor to help improve the Japan-South Korea relationships. I expect [this move] to help the two countries deepen their mutual understanding.”

 

 Yukio Edano, Secretary-General, DPJ

 “[The release of Kato] should be welcomed from a humanitarian perspective. On the other hand, it remains questionable whether he had really needed to be in custody under such a long departure ban. The Japanese government should thoroughly look into the case to prevent a recurrence of a similar incident and be assertive in what it should be.”

 

 Yorihisa Matsuno, Secretary-General, Japan Innovation Party

 “I’m glad to hear the news. The international community should not allow freedom of speech to be oppressed in that form.”

 

 Keiji Kokuta, Diet Affairs Chairman, Japanese Communist Party

 “The lifting of the departure ban is a natural consequence. Many issues were raised, but within the scope of freedom of speech, it was wrong for South Korea to impose a departure ban.”

 

 Shigefumi Matsuzawa, Secretary-General, Party for Future Generations

 “The decision was made late. [The detention of the journalist] is an infringement of human rights. If Kato’s column constitutes a crime, all journalists cannot perform their task. The incident suggests nothing but that Sankei came under a political attack from the South Korean government.”

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