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Nobuyuki Suzuki Case Draws Out for 10 Years, At Last Someone in South Korea Calls for Dropping It

In a peculiar case grounded in the absence of reason, South Korean prosecutors have pursued Japanese activist Nobuyuki Suzuki for "defamation" for 10 years.



Nobuyuki Suzuki in 2020 (© National Party of Japan)

On April 19, the Seoul Central District Court held its 26th session in the trial of Nobuyuki Suzuki

Suzuki is a Japanese conservative political activist who once held local office. During his trip to South Korea in June 2012, he strapped a wooden spike to the Statue of Peace. The memorial, also known as the Comfort Women Statue, was erected in front of the former Japanese Embassy in Seoul. There were several incendiary inscriptions on the spike, such as "Takeshima is Japanese land." 

For this action, South Korean prosecutors indicted Suzuki in February 2013. They alleged he was defaming former comfort women. Since then, despite being served with a warrant seven times, he has refused to cooperate with the South Korean legal proceedings. He has said he won't appear unless ordered to do so by his own government. 

Wooden spike strapped to the Statue of Peace in front of the former Japanese Embassy in South Korea. (©Suzuki Nobuyuki's blogpost)

Consequently, the trial has stalled for over a decade. Moreover, it is expected to remain stalled since the defendant again did not appear in court on April 19. 

A Spectator Takes the Stand

With the defendant's seat vacant, it seemed the latest trial would close without any new development. That is until one spectator asked and was permitted to give a short comment. 

Taking the stand, Park Sun-jung urged the court and the prosecutors to promptly dismiss the case. 

"It's clear that defamation cannot be established by checking just a few details. Nonetheless, the prosecution has indicted Nobuyuki Suzuki and continued [the trial] for ten years," Park said.

"The fact that the prosecution is dragging on for ten years while knowing that the case is not sustainable illustrates how backward South Korea's legal system is and is a disgrace to our country," he added. 


The presiding judge replied that the court would take Park's comments into consideration.  

Was There 'Defamation'?

Experts familiar with the incident likewise argue that Suzuki's actions do not constitute defamation.

"In South Korea, one can be found liable for criminal defamation only when the defendant publicly alleges false information and the victims are clearly identifiable," said Lee Dong-hwan, an attorney who has litigated numerous defamation cases. 

"The onus lies squarely with the prosecutors to prove, but neither [condition] seems apparent in this particular case," Lee added.  

The court plans to reissue the expired arrest warrant in May and seek to summon Suzuki to the court. It is unlikely that the defendant, who reportedly resides in Japan, will be extradited to South Korea. 

The next trial is scheduled for March 2025. 


Author: Kenji Yoshida