A 78-year-old South Korean man, identified by his surname Kim, has died after self-immolating in his car, near the entrance of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.
According to the Associated Press, the incident took place around 3:24 a.m. on Friday morning and the man later succumbed to his injuries in the hospital due to severe burns to his chest, arms, and face.
According to South Korean police, Kim had previously expressed to an acquaintance that he planned to set himself ablaze in protest against Japan.
Kim’s family later informed the investigators that his father-in-law was conscripted as a forced laborer when Japan colonized Korea from 1910 to 1945.
However, a definitive motive for his actions still remains unknown and the police have stated that they will continue to analyze evidence.
Relations between Korean and Japan have been strained since Japan’s colonial occupation of the Korean peninsula, resulting in forced labor and forced sexual slavery.
This incident, however, comes in the midst of even more heightened political tensions between the two countries, especially after the recent disputes over trade. Earlier this month, Japan made the decision to restrict export of three key materials needed for smartphone and chip production to South Korea, claiming the decision was made due to national security concerns.
However, some pointed out this was a deliberate move in response to the South Korean court ruling that declared Korean citizens had the right to sue Japanese companies who used forced Korean labor during World War II.
In response the Japanese government had threatened visa restrictions and tariffs, also urging Japanese companies not to settle with the plaintiffs.
According to CNN, Yoshihide Suga — Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary — has denied the connection between the two issues but instead accused Seoul of rejecting “long standing friendly ties between the countries” and stated that the South Korean court ruling had damaged the “relationship of trust.”
Economists have since warned that this escalated trade war between the two countries could mean bad news for the global economy and possibly result in consumers having to pay more for technology, calling the situation “disturbing and unhelpful.”
On the other hand, analysts have pointed out that while this move could have an impact on Korean tech companies such as Samsung and LG in the short term, in the long run, Japanese companies could suffer as South Korean firms look elsewhere and rethink their supply chains.
Featured image via YouTube / @TIME