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South Korea: Buddhist monk sets himself on fire over wartime sex slaves deal

64-year-old’s self-immolation follows Japan’s angry reaction over a statue representing Korean ‘comfort women’ placed outside its consulate in Busan

8 January 2017, 2:54pm
People watch a statue symbolizing women forced into wartime Japanese military brothels in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul
People watch a statue symbolizing women forced into wartime Japanese military brothels in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul
A Buddhist monk was left in critical condition after setting himself on fire in Seoul, South Korea, to protest against the country’s settlement with Japan on compensation for wartime sex slaves.

The 64-year-old monk suffered third-degree burns across his body and serious damage to vital organs. He was unconscious and unable to breathe on his own, said an official from the Seoul National University Hospital.

The man set himself ablaze on Saturday, citing the deal between the countries over South Korean women who were forced into sexual slavery by Japan’s second world war military.

In his notebook, police said, the man called South Korea’s embattled president, Park Geun-hye, a “traitor” over the 2015 agreement.

The injured Buddhist monk who set himself on fire is put into an ambulance in Seoul
The injured Buddhist monk who set himself on fire is put into an ambulance in Seoul
The issue of comfort women was brought back to the fore on Friday when the Japanese government reacted angrily to the placing of a bronze statue representing wartime sex slaves in front of its consulate in the city of Busan, recalling its ambassador from South Korea and suspending economic talks.

A similar statue in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul has been at the centre of the controversial agreement under which Japan pledged to fund a Seoul-based foundation that was set up to help support the victims. South Korea, in exchange, vowed to refrain from criticising Japan over the issue and try to resolve Japanese grievance over the Seoul statue.

The agreement has so far come short of bringing a closure to the emotional issue. The deal continues to be criticised in South Korea because it was reached without approval from victims. Students have been holding sit-in protests next to the Seoul statue for more than a year over fears that the government might try to remove it.

At the time of the deal Seoul said there were 46 surviving South Korean “comfort women”.