Soma Hirohisa, Japan’s Deputy Chief of Mission in Seoul, is being investigated by the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency (SMPA) on suspicion of defamation, the Asahi Shimbun has learned from a SMPA source.
According to the source, the police accepted a charge filed by a liberal-leaning citizens’ group that supports the administration of Democratic leader Moon Jae-in. The investigation is being conducted by the police agency’s anti-corruption and public crimes unit. The case will likely be prevented from being brought to court, however, due to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which governs diplomatic status. “A criminal investigation would be difficult [in this case],” the SMPA source acknowledged. “Even questioning ‘[Soma] would be problematic unless the Japanese side agrees to it.”
South Korean TV broadcaster JTBC reported that a senior Japanese official at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul used an off-color expression in a conversation with a reporter on July 15. [The broadcaster] explained that during a conversation on Japan-South Korean relations, [Soma] was trying to say that President Moon was making a fuss all by himself. According to the Japanese Embassy, Soma has admitted that he used such expression but said that it was not about Moon, and he retracted it immediately.
The South Korean government lodged a strong protest with the Japanese side and is requesting that Soma be replaced.