The media group said Friday that JoongAng Ilbo and JTBC, its newspaper and broadcasting units, and its former chairman filed a complaint with the Seoul Eastern District Prosecutors' Office against Hong Joon-pyo the previous day for defaming them via false information.
The lawsuit was in response to the remark by Hong Joon-pyo, former presidential candidate of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, during a press briefing on June 18.
Criticizing media coverage over the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye and the presidential election, he said, "One media group (head) used his newspaper and broadcaster as offerings and had his nephew arrested, and managed to get a presidential adviser position."
The head apparently referred to Hong Seok-hyun: JTBC played a decisive role in finding evidence for the presidential corruption scandal involving Park's confidant Choi Soon-sil late last year; his nephew, Samsung Group Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, was arrested for his involvement in the scandal; and he himself was named as President Moon Jae-in's adviser for unification, security and foreign affairs, although he refused the offer immediately.
"Cheong Wa Dae appointed Hong Seok-hyun to the adviser position without prior consultation with him, and he did not accept the offer and has not played that role. So Hong Joon-pyo's claim that Hong Seok-hyun got the position by offering JoongAng Ilbo and JTBC is false from the beginning," the group said.
Hong Joon-pyo said he would file a counter-suit.
"I criticized an emperor-like media owner, then the media went against the trend and responded with a lawsuit to gag the criticizer," he said on his Facebook page. "For the suit, I have to react with another suit."
He did not mention exactly what charges he would file against the media group.
He also said the group showed the dangerous power of media attempting to prevent criticism, adding he would hold a national campaign against conglomerate-like media.