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Author Who Defected From North Korea Wins Defamation Lawsuit

WorldAsiaAuthor Who Defected From North Korea Wins Defamation Lawsuit


An author who defected from North Korea has won a defamation lawsuit that he filed in South Korea against a fellow defector who accused him of rape and the broadcaster that first reported her allegations.

The South Korean Supreme Court last month upheld a lower court’s ruling in favor of the author, Jang Jin-sung. Mr. Jang sued his accuser, Sung Sel-hyang, and the TV channel MBC in 2021, after MBC aired reports about Ms. ​Sung’s accusations.

The lower court’s October ruling ​found Ms. Sung’s allegations to be false and ordered her, MBC and two other defendants — an MBC reporter and Ms. Sung’s husband — to pay Mr. Jang a total of 4​7 million won, or $35,000, in damages. It also ordered MBC not to rebroadcast its 2021 reports about Mr. Jang or post them online.

Mr. Jang,​ who fled North Korea in 2004, is one of the​ most internationally recognized defectors from the North, best known for his 2014 memoir “Dear Leader.”

Ms. Sung, who also defected to the South from North Korea, said she was raped by Mr. Jang and by one of his South Korean associates not long after she first met Mr. Jang in 2016, when he was running a website that specialized in news about the North.

But the lower court found Ms. Sung’s allegations to be false, saying that her statements were inconsistent, untrustworthy and lacked supporting evidence, according to the court’s ruling, which was viewed by The New York Times.

Although MBC argued that its reports were in the public interest, the judges said the channel had been biased toward Ms. Sung and had intimated that her accusations were true despite a lack of evidence. The Supreme Court’s brief March 14 ruling supported the lower court’s findings.

“I have experienced the systems of both North and South Korea,” Mr. Jang, 53, said on ​Friday.​ “The evil in North Korea was its one-man dictatorship that created a network of prison camps. ​The evil in South Korea, I have learned, was fake news that ​tries to create prisons of public opinion​.”

Ms. Sung filed a lawsuit accusing Mr. Jang and his associate of rape and other sex crimes and asking the police and prosecutors to bring charges against him. But they eventually declined to do so, citing a lack of evidence. Mr. Jang’s associate was also a plaintiff in the defamation suit; he was awarded 11 million won in damages.

Mr. Jang first gained attention in South Korea with his poems about hunger in North Korea. His best-selling memoir described his life as a propaganda writer in the totalitarian state and his eventual escape from it. The book has been translated into a dozen languages, and Mr. Jang appeared on the cover of a ​British ​magazine​.

Mr. Jang is one of a series of prominent South Korean men who were accused of past sexual misconduct as the country’s #MeToo movement gained momentum. Many of them have been convicted of sexual assault.



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