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South Koreans protest Abe govt with candlelight vigil in downtown Seoul

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (Valery Sharifulin/TASS Host Photo Agency/Abaca Press/TNS)

According to organizers, a Japanese civic group also sent its support, backing the protest against the Abe government’s escalating of conflict with Korea.

Some 15,000 people took to the streets to join the candlelight vigil in sweltering heat on Saturday in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul, the organizers said.

The protest started in front of the former site of the Japanese Embassy where a comfort woman statue stands.

“We remember the people of Chosun who were forced into labor by Japan and unjustly exploited. Japan, a perpetrator 100 years ago, is once again committing economic invasion of Korea,” the civic groups said.

Calling Japan‘s removal of South Korea from a list of preferential trading partners last week as being on par with the 1910-1945 colonization of Korea, protesters urged Tokyo to rescind the move and apologize for war crimes.

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Protesters also urged the abrogation of GSOMIA, Korea’s the military intelligence sharing pact with Japan, holding pickets reading “We condemn Abe government, apologize for forced labor.”

Civic groups have been holding rallies every Saturday since last month after Japan imposed toughened regulations on the export of three tech materials used by Korean tech companies.

The move was widely seen as Tokyo’s response to Korean top court‘s rulings that found in favor of Korean victims of forced labor during World War who are seeking reparations from Japanese firms.

Meanwhile, a 72-year-old man who had set himself on fire last week in protest against Japan’s trade measures died Saturday morning at the hospital, the police said.

A memo stating “Japan, retract trade retaliation” along with a book on late-Kim Bok-dong, who was a woman’s rights activist and an iconic Korean victim of Japanese wartime sexual slavery, were found in a bag at the site of the self-immolation.

Amid growing tensions, 682 civic groups are to hold protests on Aug. 10 and Aug. 15, Korea’s Liberation Day marking independence from Japanese colonial rule.

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