SEOUL —A member of a South Korean anti-Japan civic group stabbed himself in the stomach during a rally at Gimpo Airport in Seoul on Friday. Kim Chang-geun, 57, bleeding from the stomach, was led away by police.
The rally was held to denounce Japan’s conservative new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and demand an official apology for Japan’s war crimes during World War II. The group was at the airport to protest the arrival of Abe’s special envoy, veteran lawmaker and former finance minister Fukushiro Nukaga, who will meet South Korea’s President-elect Park Geun-hye later in the day.
“As both Japan and South Korea have new governments, I would like to play the role of mediator so that this year can be a good one for the two countries,” Nukaga told reporters at the airport.
“Prime Minister Abe believes that Japan-South Korea relations need to be solid for the stability of East Asia,” he said. “I want to convey that message.”
Abe, who took office late December, had planned to send the envoy earlier but the dispatch was delayed due to Park’s tight schedule, according to local media.
The territorial row flared last year following a surprise visit by South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak to the Dokdo islands, known by Japan as Takeshima.
It quickly degenerated into a familiar confrontation over attitudes to shared history, with Seoul accusing its former colonial ruler Tokyo of not being contrite enough for its wartime behavior.
Tokyo hopes the dispatch will help lead to a fresh start under the countries’ new leaders, and as North Korea’s successful rocket launch last month renews regional security concerns.