South Korean man dies after setting himself on fire outside Japanese embassy in Seoul

Posted at 2:38 AM, Jul 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-19 08:27:04-04

A man in his seventies has died after self-immolating inside his car in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, authorities in the South Korean capital said Friday.

According to a statement from the local Jongno Fire Station, “it is presumed that the man, using 20 liters of gasoline and butane gas in the car, tried to set himself on fire.”

The incident occurred in the early hours of Friday morning, at 3:24 a.m. The man succumbed to his injuries in hospital several hours later, after suffering extensive second-degree burns to his chest, arm and face.

The man’s motive is not yet known.

The incident comes amid escalating tensions between Japan and South Korea over a series of disputes, including a widening trade row and spat stemming from colonial-era reparations.

Japan announced earlier this month that it would curb the export of high-tech materials used in memory chips and smartphones to South Korea. The move was called a “blow to the economy” by South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who suggested the decision could threaten global supplies.

The export restrictions were imposed after South Korea’s top court ruled that its citizens had the right to sue Japanese companies for using forced labor during World War II.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga denied the two issues were linked, but said the court ruling had damaged the “relationship of trust” and accused Seoul of repeatedly rejecting “long-standing friendly ties between the countries.”

Relations between the two countries have been strained for decades because of Japan’s colonial occupation of the Korean peninsula in the early 20th century.

South Koreans have previously staged anti-Japanese demonstrations at the embassy in Seoul.