by ALEX HYUN | @ahyundarkb4dawn
Days ahead of Korea’s 70th Liberation Day, an 80-year old South Korean man lit himself on fire on Wednesday outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul. The incident occurred during a rally calling for Japan to apologize for forcing thousands of Korean women to work in military brothels during World War II.
Bystanders rushed to extinguish the fire with blankets and water. The elderly man, identified as Choi Hyun-yeol, is currently in critical condition with third-degree burns on his face, neck, upper torso and arms, according to the Associated Press. The protest continued after paramedics took Choi to the hospital.
In Choi’s bag, police found a five-page document, apparently written by Choi himself, that included condemning remarks about Japan’s stance on its colonialism of Korea and wartime treatment of Korean sex slaves, or “comfort women” as they are euphemistically called by Japan.
A civic group revealed in an online statement that Choi’s father was a member of an anti-Japanese independent movement in 1932, reported Reuters.
With the 70th anniversary of Korea’s independence from Japanese colonial rule drawing near, about 2,000 demonstrators participated in Wednesday’s rally. Protestors urged Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to make an official apology for Japan’s WWII conduct.
The Japanese government has, in fact, formally apologized for its wartime atrocities against comfort women and helped establish the Asian Women’s Fund in 1995, which provides aid to aging comfort women. However, CNN notes that Tokyo has resisted direct compensations to victims, and to add insult to injury, Abe’s past statements have skirted around the comfort women issue.
With the number of surviving comfort women dwindling, South Korea’s government and activists have stressed the importance of a timely agreement on this issue. According to Vice, Abe is expected to express “deep remorse” in a speech to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Korea’s independence on Aug. 15.
Featured image via Nocut View (Screenshot)