SEOUL – Six people, believed to be college students, were arrested on Monday for staging a protest inside the Japanese consulate in the South Korean port city of Busan against trade restrictions imposed by Tokyo on Seoul.
After entering the mission earlier in the day following due process, according to the police, the six held placards in the courtyard, condemning the measure announced by the Japanese government at the beginning of the month, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.
They also began shouting slogans including “Japan must apologize” in reference to actions committed by Tokyo during its colonial rule over the Korean peninsula.
The protest coincided with another demonstration convened by around 30 organizations outside the consulate in South Korea’s second largest city.
The diplomatic crisis between Japan and South Korea – the worst in decades – has triggered a boycott of Japanese products and protests in front of Japanese diplomatic missions in the country.
On July 4, Japan rolled out restrictions on exports to South Korea of basic chemical products – fluorinated polyamide, photoresists and hydrogen fluoride – used to manufacture screens and memory chips of computers, servers, TV sets and smartphones.
South Korea has announced that it will take the matter to the World Trade Organization.
Seoul believes that the measure is in response to the rulings in 2018 by several South Korean courts – including the Supreme Court – asking Japanese companies to pay compensation to Korean citizens who were forced to work for them during World War II.
Japan, which colonized the Korean peninsula between 1910 and 1945, maintains that all compensation for victims enslaved by Japanese companies was settled during the 1965 Treaty on Basic Relations.
In accordance with the treaty, Japan donated $300 million to the neighboring country. The compensation, however, did not reach the intended victims under the military dictatorship of Park Chung-hee, resulting in thousands of them suing the South Korean government this year.
Tokyo has also proposed to set up an arbitration panel to resolve disputes related to the treaty. But Seoul has rejected the proposal citing the Supreme Court judgment, although adding that it was open to a diplomatic dialog.
It is believed that from August, Japan will also remove South Korea from its “white list” of countries which have the minimum trade restrictions, a move that could deal yet another severe blow to Asia’s fourth-largest economy.