South Korean man self-immolates in protest against Japan

South Korean man sets himself alight in protest demanding apology from Japan for enslaving 'comfort women'

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Former South Korean "comfort woman" Kim Bok-dong poses with a copy of her painting titled "The Day A 14-year-old Girl Is Stolen Away"

A South Korean man set himself on fire on Wednesday during a protest against Japan in Seoul outside the Japanese embassy.

The man, in his eighties, was among hundreds of people, including three of the 47 known surviving Korean "comfort women," demonstrating and calling on Japan to apologize for forcing Korean women to be sex slaves in military brothels during World War Two.

The man was taken to hospital with third-degree burns on his upper body and arms, but police said his injuries did not appear to be life-threatening.

"It appears he tried to kill himself by setting himself on fire, given a drink bottle that he had smells of gasoline," a firefighter told Reuters.

The protest came days ahead of the anniversary marking 70 years since the end of Japan's colonial occupation of the Korean peninsula, which is still a sensitive issue for both countries. 

Japan and South Korea have been repairing diplomatic relations since the early 1960s but a real rapprochement came only in the 1990s following apologies from Japan and cultural exchanges between the countries.  

The Japanese invasion is still remembered as an era of racial and cultural humiliation by the South Korean public, and deep resentment against Japan persists.

South Korea still insists on compensation for Japan's past misdeeds together with apologies, especially concerning the practice of enslaving "comfort women," but the Japanese side says the issue was settled in the normalisation agreement the countries signed in 1965.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has refused to apologise other than by saying "comfort women experienced immeasurable pain and suffering.” 

TRTWorld and agencies