South Korea detains six for illegally entering Japan consulate

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Police yesterday detained six South Koreans for allegedly illegally entering a Japanese diplomatic facility in South Korea and staging an anti-Tokyo demonstration there.

The incident came amid growing anti-Japanese sentiments in South Korea as the two countries are locked in trade and political disputes. Last Friday, a 78-year-old South Korean man died after setting himself on fire near the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.

The six men and women were given temporary passes to enter the Japanese Consulate in the southeastern city of Busan earlier yesterday after they told staff there they would visit a library inside the building, according to Busan police officers.

They initially stayed at the library. But they later abruptly dashed out to a consulate yard, holding a placard. They also shouted slogans criticising Japan’s recent decision to tighten its export controls of some high-tech materials, the police officers said.

No major violence or clashes were reported. But police detained the six people for trespassing because they were admitted to the building to visit the library, not stage a rally, the officers said, requesting anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media on the matter.

South Korean police officers detain protesters in front of the Japanese consulate in Busan, South Korea. – AP

While the six were being detained, activists were holding anti-Japanese rallies outside the consulate. Yesterady, about 30 people rallied in front of a Busan police station, calling for the release of the six people, according to police.

South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported that the six people are university students belonging to a newly launched anti-Japanese organisation in Busan.

Police said they could not immediately confirm the Yonhap report.

South Korea and Japan are both key United States (US) allies in Asia that are closely linked to each other economically and culturally.

But they have often been embroiled in historical and territory disputes stemming from the Japanese colonial occupation from 1910-45.

South Korean officials say the Japanese trade controls are retaliation for local court rulings ordering Japanese firms to pay compensation to former Korean forced labourers during the colonial period. Japan denies that, saying the strengthened export controls were taken out of national security concerns.