May 4 (UPI) — South Korean President Moon Jae-in decided to withdraw a criminal complaint against a protester who distributed leaflets that were deemed offensive, according to Seoul’s presidential Blue House.
Blue House spokeswoman Park Kyeong-mee said at a briefing Tuesday that the president ordered the withdrawal of the complaint, local newspaper Dong-A Ilbo reported.
Park defended Moon’s “tolerance” of “hateful expressions toward himself and his family, out of respect for the freedom of expression” of the South Korean people.
But the protester, Kim Jeong-sik, used language harmful to the nation and even to inter-Korean relations, Park said.
The South Korean spokeswoman said Kim applied the rhetoric of “far-right Japanese” news media to attack the president.
According to Korea JoongAng Daily, the leaflets Kim distributed claimed Moon’s forefathers served in the Japanese colonial administration. Kim’s leaflets also read, “The red identity of North Korea‘s dog President Moon Jae-in” and included Japanese pornographic material.
“As the president who runs the country, [Moon] ordered the withdrawal of his intention to punish [the defendant], accepting that it is also necessary to endure expressions of insult” as leader of the country, Park said.
The statement is the first acknowledgement by the president’s office that it was Moon or his aides who had initiated the criminal complaint.
The status of the complaint and the initiator’s identity was under question for weeks after South Korean police on April 8 requested prosecutors to indict Kim for his leaflets.
Kim’s distribution of the material took place outside the National Assembly on July 17, 2019, according to the JoongAng.
South Korea’s political opposition criticized the president for filing the complaint in the first place, Newsis reported Tuesday.
People Power Party spokesman Hwang Kyu-hwan said Tuesday the complaint was dropped in response to rising criticism of the president’s actions, which civic groups have said are “undemocratic.”
Hwang also said Moon has yet to apologize to Kim, who endured a period of “pain and anxiety” while under police investigation, according to Newsis.