Hong Ga-hye, a woman who was arrested for giving an interview based on false information on the Sewol ferry accident, became an impersonator of a civilian diver when she gave a positive answer to a television script writer who asked if she was one. Hong said she was a civilian diver because she was a civilian and could dive. When she claimed during a TV interview that civilian divers communicated with survivors in the ill-fated ferry, she was simply conveying what she had heard from other divers, without being aware that the information was false. In January, a local court acquitted Hong of charges of defaming the Korea Coast Guard.
There were a series of media reports portraying her as a habitual liar who had once lied to her friends that she was a cousin of a member of a popular girl band. Such reports were proven groundless during her trial. After being acquitted, Hong lamented, "A 10-minute-long TV interview changed my 27 years of life." She had been detained for 101 days and suffered from severe criticisms from Internet users.
Hong has started her revenge, filing libel suits against some 800 Internet users who posted online comments attacking her. A large number of complaints filed by her have caused disruptions in businesses at police stations and prosecutors` offices. Some of the sued people have reached settlements with her. In some cases, parents are seeking a settlement for the online comments their children posted. The settlement money reportedly exceeds 2 million won (1,815 U.S. dollars). If 800 people pays her that amount, the total is 1.6 billion won (1.5 million dollars).
In the TV interview, Hong said with confidence that she heard sounds made by survivors and exchanged signals and communicated with them through the deck wall. However, she was actually conveying other divers` accounts. To punish Hong, prosecutors must prove that the accounts were false. However, only Heaven knows what happened inside the sunken ferry. This is why the judge said that the acquittal was not his indulgence for the act of the defendant. Hong was acquitted not because truth was revealed but because prosecutors failed to prove that her remarks were false. Hong may have had enough false accusations. However, it would a right thing to do that she refrains from filing excessive lawsuits.