Monday, 19 August, 2019

Man self-immolates, dies in hospital amid Seoul-Tokyo spat

David Stilwell center left U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs speaks as South Korea's Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Yoon Soon-gu center right listens after a meeting with South Kore Seoul silent on Tokyo’s arbitration offer
Steven Clarke | 19 July, 2019, 21:30

Some activists and residents in South Korea are staging anti-Japan demonstrations and campaigns to boycott Japanese products, but those have been limited so far.

The man's father-in-law was said to be a victim of forced labour by Japanese firms during World War Two and he may have acted in protest against Japan's export curbs, South Korean media said.

The man, identified only by the surname Kim, drove his auto onto the sidewalk in front of the entrance of the embassy building and ignited a fire inside his vehicle around 3.24 a.m., suffering burns all over his body, said the police.

The neighboring countries are quarreling over South Korean court decisions ordering Japanese companies to compensate victims of forced labor during Japan's 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

Government officials view that step as a last resort given the refusal of South Korea to even enter into discussions based on the 1965 bilateral agreement that not only restored diplomatic ties, but in Tokyo's view "completely and finally" settled all wartime compensation claims by Koreans.

Japan's foreign minister publicly admonished South Korea's ambassador on Friday in a worsening row over compensation for Korean forced labourers that has spilled over into their trade in high-tech materials used to make memory chips and screens.

South Korean police officers patrol against possible rallies against Japan in front of a building where the Japanese embassy is located in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, July 19, 2019.

Seoul has accused Tokyo of weaponizing trade to retaliate against South Korean court rulings calling for Japanese companies to compensate aging South Korean plaintiffs for forced labor during World War II, and plans to file a complaint with the World Trade Organization.

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"What the South Korean government is doing now is equivalent to subverting the post-World War Two global order", Kono said at the start of the meeting.

Nam responded by saying South Korea was working every day to create an environment in which the lawsuits could be dealt with in a manner acceptable to both sides and not harm ties.

Police declined to comment, saying they were investigating.

South Korea's Deputy National Security Adviser Kim Hyun-chong said on Friday that Japan has violated the WTO's principle of free trade and worldwide law by imposing unilateral export restrictions against South Korea while diplomatic efforts have not been exhausted. "I won't comment at the moment on which steps to take at what timing", Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasutoshi Nishimura told a regular news conference, when asked about the possibility of taking it to ICJ.

South Korea's Samsung Electronics 005930.KS has sent letters to partners urging them to stockpile more Japanese components in case Tokyo expands its export restrictions. "We also do not have to be bound to (Japan's) demands", a ministry official said.

"There are major concerns that such a move would have a grave impact on not only the economies in both countries, but the global supply chain", Mr Lee said at a briefing.

"(The two sides) should work to quickly resolve the dispute through dialogue", Nam said.

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