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S. Koreans protest amid Japan row

By Wang Xu in Tokyo | China Daily | Updated: 2019-08-15 09:41
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South Korean protesters hold placards showing "NO" during a rally denouncing Japan for its recent trade restrictions against Seoul near the Japanese embassy in Seoul on July 20, 2019. [Photo/VCG]

Japan cautioned its citizens visiting South Korea about potential "safety risks" on Wednesday, as South Koreans are expected to mount protests in several cities over historical conflicts between the two neighbors.

South Korea commemorated the International Memorial Day for Comfort Women amid rising tensions over trade and historical issues between Seoul and Tokyo, while Thursday marks the country's national day of liberation from Japanese colonial rule from 1910-45.

Japan's Foreign Ministry issued an advisory on its website for Japanese residents in South Korea and visitors, reminding them to be careful and avoid areas where anti-Japanese protests and gatherings are expected to happen.

"Since July there have been large-scale Japan-related protests in Seoul, Busan and other places in South Korea.... A man burned a car outside the building of the Japanese Embassy and several students were taken into custody by police as they protested around the Consulate General of Japan in Busan," it said.

The advisory said since Japan-related protests and gatherings are expected to be held in various cities in South Korea on Wednesday and Thursday, "please pay attention to the latest information and act carefully, such as staying away from places where protests are being held. When you go out, please pay attention to the surroundings when visiting Japan-related facilities".

Around 300 people, including elderly women who were sexually enslaved by imperial Japanese army, participated in Wednesday's event in Seoul, Yonhap News Agency reported, but South Korean President Moon Jae-in did not appear, as he did last year when the memorial day was marked for the first time.

Instead, Moon focused on raising global awareness of the comfort women issue and did not criticize Japan in a message posted on Facebook.

"Wednesday's ceremony was made possible because former comfort women were not afraid to speak publicly about the hardships they faced," Moon said, adding that he will share the issue with the international community and spread it as a message for peace and women's rights.

Jin Sun-mee, South Korea's minister of gender equality and family, said Seoul will take the lead in expanding the comfort women issue into a women's rights movement and vowed to restore the women's dignity and honor.

"We will establish the comfort women issue as one of women's human rights and educate a new generation so that it will be remembered as a historical lesson," Jin said.

Thursday marks the 74th anniversary of Korean Independence Day which is celebrated across the Korean Peninsula.

Meanwhile, the international community and media are watching Japan closely as Emperor Naruhito will give his first war-related speech since he ascended to the throne in May.

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