Koreans hold candlelight vigil to protest Abe government
SEOUL — Some 680 civic groups held a candlelight vigil over the weekend in protest of the Japanese government’s decision to take South Korea off a list of preferred trading partners and to call on Tokyo to apologize for war crimes it committed in World War II.
According to organizers, a Japanese civic group also sent its support, backing the protest against the Abe government’s escalation of conflict with Korea.
Some 15,000 people took to the streets to join the candlelight vigil in sweltering heat Saturday in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul, the organizers said.
The protest started in front of the former site of the Japanese Embassy, where a “comfort woman” statue stands.
“We remember the people of Chosun who were forced into labor by Japan and unjustly exploited. Japan, a perpetrator 100 years ago, is once again committing economic invasion of Korea,” the civic groups said.
Calling Japan’s removal of South Korea from a list of preferential trading partners last week as being on par with the 1910-1945 colonization of Korea, protesters urged Tokyo to rescind the move and apologize for war crimes.
Protesters also urged for the abrogation of GSOMIA, Korea’s military intelligence sharing pact with Japan signed in 2016, holding pickets reading “We condemn the Abe government, apologize for forced labor.”
Civic groups have been holding rallies every Saturday since last month, after Japan imposed toughened regulations on exports of three tech materials used by Korean tech companies.
The move was widely seen as Tokyo’s response to the Korean top court’s rulings in favor of Korean victims of forced labor during World War, who are seeking reparations from Japanese firms.
Meanwhile, a 72-year-old man who set himself on fire last week in protest against Japan’s trade measures died Saturday morning at the hospital, police said.
A memo stating “Japan, retract trade retaliation,” along with a book on the late Kim Bok-dong, a woman’s rights activist and a Korean victim of Japanese wartime sexual slavery, were found in a bag at the site of the self-immolation.
Amid worsening relations between the two countries, 682 civic groups are to hold protests on Aug. 10 and Aug. 15, Liberation Day marking independence from Japanese colonial rule.
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