South Korea presidential candidate's wife threatens to jail critical reporters

Ms Kim Keon-hee, the wife of People Power Party candidate Yoon Suk-yeol, threatened to "jail all reporters" who criticised her husband. PHOTOS: AFP, REUTERS

SEOUL (AFP) - A South Korean opposition party was struggling on Monday (Jan 24) to contain the fallout after the wife of its presidential candidate threatened to "jail all reporters" who criticised her husband.

It is the second scandal to hit People Power Party candidate Yoon Suk-yeol since taped recordings and court transcriptions of his wife speaking to a journalist became public last week following a court battle.

Mr Yoon is locked in a tight race with Democratic Party candidate Lee Jae-myung ahead of the March presidential election, with recent polls falling within the margin for error.

"If I make it to the Blue House, I will put them all in jail," said Kim Keon-hee, referring to the presidential office, in the latest comments.

She said critical media outlets would likely be prosecuted under her husband's future administration.

"Police will charge them whether we order them to or not," she told a journalist in recorded comments.

Last Tuesday, Mr Yoon's party was forced to distance itself from remarks in which Ms Kim expressed strong support for a former politician now jailed for rape and was dismissive of the country's #MeToo movement.

Mr Yoon's campaign manager on Monday said the party was "trying to find the best way forward" after the would-be first lady's most recent remarks were made public.

Ms Kim's comments have touched a raw nerve in South Korea, a robust democracy where strong libel laws can result in reporters facing jail time over their work.

South Korea is ranked 42nd in the World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters without Borders.

In a poll by the Korea Economic Daily released on Monday, more than half of respondents said that the comments by Mr Yoon's wife would negatively affect his approval.

The party had lodged multiple injunctions in a bid to keep the recordings out of the public domain, but all were rejected by the courts.

The comments by a woman who could become the country's next first lady "reflect her views... and thus are subject to public interest and inspection", the Seoul Central District Court ruled last week.

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