Court levies $35k fine for defaming Bae
THE chief executive and internal director of a ginseng product company, who called hallyu star Bae Yong Joon "crazy for money", were slapped with a fine of 30 million won (S$35,300) for defamation.
The Seoul Central District Court said on Sunday that the two were responsible for maliciously defaming a well-known celebrity to gain public attention and influence the court decision on then-ongoing lawsuits with Bae's former food brand Goshire.
The court said: "Although Bae was not the person directly involved in the lawsuit between the parties, he was still held in contempt, which insulted his person and harmed his image in the public eye."
The unusually hefty fine for a defamation case in Korea is due to Bae's special position as a public figure, according to the court. He was the star of the 2002 drama series Winter Sonata, which became hugely popular and was credited as a proponent of the Korean Wave.
"Bae suffered public distrust for a prolonged period, which hindered his activities and caused him severe psychological distress," said the court.
The ginseng company in 2009 signed contracts with Bae to borrow the name of his Japan-launched food brand Goshire for exports of ginseng products to Japan.
It gave 2.3 billion won advance payment out of the total five billion won down payment for which Goshire promised annual sales of 10 billion won.
However, sales flopped and the ginseng company demanded Goshire to return 300 million won, claiming the latter made unfair profits with its belatedly earned trademark rights in 2011.
On the day of the court trial for the suit, the ginseng company employees and shareholders held up signs in front of the courthouse that read "Bae Yong Joon, Crazy for money" and "National wealth drainer Bae Yong Joon".
At the time, Bae had forsaken his shares at Goshire and was no longer involved in the legal proceedings.
The ginseng company lost the case, with the court ruling that the two parties had inked the contract under mutual agreement of Goshire's brand value, and not because of Goshire's trademark rights.
The court decided that Goshire's failure to carry out the pitched sales revenue was not a purposeful deception.
The ginseng company had also filed suit against Bae for a scam in 2014, for which he was also acquitted.
THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK