South Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-duk poses during a photocall to present the film 'Human, Space, Time and Human' (Inkan, Gonkan, Sikan Grigo Inkan) presented in the Panorama Special section during the 68th Berlinale film festival on February 17, 2018 in Berlin. (AFP/John MacDougall)
South Korean prosecutors have rejected complaints by famed film director Kim Ki-duk of criminal defamation against an actress who accused him of physical and sexual assault, and journalists who reported other allegations.
Kim, 58, is one of South Korea's top directors whose awards include the Golden Lion at the 2012 Venice Film Festival for "Pieta" and Berlin's 2004 Silver Bear for Best Director.
But an actress in 2017 accused him of sexual and physical abuse, saying he forced her into unscripted sexual scenes and slapped her repeatedly while shooting his 2013 award-winning film "Moebius", before replacing her with another actress.
Prosecutors dropped the sex abuse charge citing lack of evidence but fined Kim five million won ($4,600) for physical assault under a procedure to settle minor cases out of court.
Several other actresses came forward afterwards, anonymously accusing Kim of raping or sexually abusing them in an investigative television programme, "PD Notebook", that aired last year as the #MeToo campaign against violence against women took off in South Korea.
Kim denied the accusations and asked prosecutors to investigate the "PD Notebook" journalists for defamation, and the "Moebius" actress for defaming and false accusation.
He was able to do so under South Korea's defamation law, which makes libel a crime and provides that stating the truth can still be an offence if it is deemed to have tarnished others' social reputation.
Seoul prosecutors told AFP on Friday that they had dismissed all of Kim's complaints, saying the actress's sex abuse accusation was only dropped because they were unable to find enough evidence, and there was no proof she was purposefully lying.
According to reports the prosecutors said they saw "credible reasons" the interviews with other actresses aired on "PD Notebook" were true.
"The production crew had no intention to slander him and there is no evidence that the testimonies were false," the prosecutors said in a statement quoted by multiple media reports.
The "Moebius" actress -- whose name has been withheld -- hailed the latest decision and slammed Kim for trying to muzzle abuse victims with so-called "revenge accusations", a tactic used by a growing number of alleged sex abusers.
"Kim tried to silence me -- and perhaps other victims who wanted to come forward -- through counter-lawsuits of false accusation and defamation, but we will never be silenced again," she told AFP.
"It was so painful to face criminal investigations when I was a victim... but I have never regretted speaking out, not for one second."
Kim claimed that the "Moebius" slapping had been part of an "acting lesson".
The director has won a global following with his bloody, allegory-rich movies but has also faced accusations of misogyny over gruesome scenes of sexual and physical abuse of female characters, mostly prostitutes.
Women in South Korea's movie industry, both on screen or behind the camera, shy away from making open accusations against senior staffers or directors for fear of permanently damaging their careers, campaigners say.