Asia

S Korean monk dies after sex slave self-immolation protest

An altar to a Buddhist monk is displayed at a hospital in Seoul on 10 January 2017. Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption The monk died at a hospital in Seoul on Monday night

A Buddhist monk in South Korea has died after setting himself on fire in protest over a 2015 deal struck with Japan on wartime sex slaves.

The monk, named as Venerable Jung-won, 64, staged the protest on Saturday at a rally against President Park Geun-hye.

He died on Monday night at a hospital in Seoul due to multiple organ failures caused by his burns.

Activists have been campaigning for justice for the women, referred to as "comfort women", for decades.


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In 2015, Ms Park reached a deal with Japan which saw it promise to pay into a fund for South Korean women who were forced to work in Japanese military brothels during World War Two.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The monk had set himself on fire at a protest on Saturday

As part of the deal, the two countries agreed that the compensation and an apology would "finally and irreversibly" resolve the matter.

But critics have said the deal does not go far enough in holding Japan responsible for wartime abuses, and does not directly compensate the women.

Venerable Jung-won had left a suicide note in which he called Ms Park a "traitor".

The social justice committee of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism said he had "sacrificed his life to convey people's sentiment including... the demand for President Park Geun-Hye to resign".

"We hope that no lives will be lost like this and the whole country will be stabilised soon," said the statement, according to AFP.

Statue row

Tensions between the two countries increased last Friday after Tokyo withdrew its ambassador to South Korea in a row over a statue representing sex slaves.

Japan said the 1.5m-tall (5ft) bronze statue depicting a young, barefoot woman sitting in a chair, was a violation of the 2015 agreement.

Image copyright AP
Image caption A statue of a girl has become a South Korean symbol for the issue of wartime sex slaves

On Sunday, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe demanded the removal of the statue from outside Japan's consulate in the South Korean city of Busan. It is one of several which have been put up around South Korea by activists.

"The South Korean side should show its sincerity,'' he said on Japanese TV. He said the 2015 agreement should be implemented as a "matter of credibility".

At the time of the deal, 46 former "comfort women" were still alive in South Korea.

The issue has been one of several raised at the regular rallies against Ms Park in Seoul in recent months.

Ms Park has been embroiled in a scandal involving a close friend who has been charged with corruption.

She has been suspended from duties since December, when parliament voted to impeach her.

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