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Man sets himself on fire during sex slave protest

A South Korean man set himself on fire outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul Wednesday during a demonstration to demand an apology from Japan for forcing women into sex slavery during World War II.

The incident took place at around 12:40 p.m. when the 81-year-old man, only identified by his surname Choi, set himself on fire during a weekly demonstration in front of the embassy attended by about 1,000 people. 
 
A South Korean man, surnamed Choi, is taken to a nearby hospital after setting himself on fire outside the Japanese Embassy, Wednesday. (Yonhap)
A South Korean man, surnamed Choi, is taken to a nearby hospital after setting himself on fire outside the Japanese Embassy, Wednesday. (Yonhap)

As the flames went up during a performance to commemorate the victims coerced into sex slavery, people at the scene scrambled to douse it with fire extinguisher and placards they were holding, witnesses said.

Choi was rushed to a nearby hospital for treatment. He allegedly suffered three-degree burns, but remains conscious.

Yoon Mi-hyang, a head of the rally organizer, Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery, said that Choi had worked for the victims in Gwangju and come to Seoul to join the protest at least once a month.

The police is set to launch a probe to determine the reason behind Choi’s self-immolation attempt.

The rally was the largest in scale this year, ahead of the 70th anniversary to mark the end of Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule over the Korea Peninsula. Liberation Day falls on Aug. 15.

The sex slavery victims and their supporters have rallied since 1992 outside the Japanese Embassy every Wednesday, demanding an apology and compensation from Japan for its wartime atrocities.

More than 200,000 women, mostly Koreans, are thought to have worked as sex slaves in military brothels for the Japanese army before and during the war.

Of the 238 women registered with the South Korean government, only 47 are still alive. Seven of them died this year alone.

By Ock Hyun-ju (laeticia.ock@heraldcorp.com)
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