Dozens of South Korean activists yesterday clashed with police as they tried to install a statue to former slave workers in front of one of Tokyo’s consulates.
Many South Koreans bitterly resent the Japanese Empire’s brutal 1910 to 1945 colonization of the Korean Peninsula, when millions are known to have been forced into slave work for Japan, and former wartime sex slaves are another hugely emotional issue.
The activists tried to set up a bronze statue of an emaciated man holding a flaming torch in front of the Japanese consulate in the southern city of Busan to commemorate the forced labor victims.
The 2016 installation at the site of a statue of a girl symbolizing women forced into sexual slavery for Japanese troops drew angry protests from Tokyo, which for a time withdrew its ambassador.
“The worker’s statue next to the girl statue. Move over,” activists chanted during an overnight standoff with hundreds of police.
Dozens of campaigners tried to force their way through police lines in front of the Japanese mission, before the protest was broken up.
“We stopped them because they tried to make their way into the area within 100m from the consulate office where any public protest is banned,” the Yonhap news agency quoted a police official as saying.
Several protesters were wounded, it added.
The worker statue would be the first of its kind.
Many slave workers are believed to have perished while working at factories of Japanese firms, including Mitsubishi, with some survivors seeking damages in court in South Korea or Japan.
South Korea and Japan are both democracies, market economies and US allies that face North Korea’s nuclear threats and China’s growing economic might, but ties between them are marred by historical issues.
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