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South Korea: Man sets himself alight in protest over WWII Japan

by Our Foreign Desk

AN ELDERLY man set himself on fire in Korea yesterday during a protest demanding Japanese recognition of its war crimes in the 1930s and ’40s.

The rally outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul was held days before the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and the liberation of Korea from Japanese colonial rule.

Protesters rushed to smother the flames after 80-year-old Choi Yeon Yeol poured a bottle of fuel on himself and ignited it in a nearby flowerbed.

Mr Choi was taken to Hallym University Medical Centre, where he was said to be unconscious and suffering breathing difficulties after sustaining third-degree burns to the face, neck, upper body and arms.

Police said that a five-page statement found in his bag, apparently written by himself, condemned Japan’s stance on issues related to its colonial rule of Korea and wartime conduct.

Since 1992 there have been weekly protests in front of the Japanese embassy to demand justice for South Korean women who were forced to work as “comfort women” — a euphemism for sex slaves — for the Japanese military during the war.

Hundreds of thousands of Koreans also were forced to fight as front-line soldiers or work as slave labour.

With the approaching anniversary, yesterday’s turnout was particularly high.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has evaded requests for an official apology, while moving to glorify wartime Japan and remilitarise the country in violation of its post-war constitution.

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