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Thousands protest against Kishida’s visit to Seoul over sexual slavery and colonial-era crimes

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Hundreds of South Koreans took to the streets of Seoul on Sunday to protest against the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who met with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol for a summit aimed at improving bilateral ties.

The protesters, who belonged to various civic groups and organizations, denounced Japan’s lack of remorse for its colonial and wartime atrocities, such as the forced labor and sexual slavery of Koreans. They also opposed any military cooperation between South Korea and Japan, and urged Japan to scrap its plan to dump radioactive wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean.

The protesters gathered near the presidential office, where Kishida and Yoon held talks on various issues, including North Korea’s nuclear threat, trade disputes, and historical reconciliation. They chanted slogans such as “Japan should apologize for its illegal colonial rule and withdraw the Fukushima contaminated water discharge plan”.

Some protesters also expressed their dissatisfaction with the South Korean government’s proposal to compensate the victims of Japan’s forced labor through a foundation funded by private donations, which they said was a betrayal of the victims’ rights and dignity.

Kishida, who arrived in Seoul on Saturday for a two-day visit, said at a joint press conference with Yoon that his cabinet will inherit the positions of previous cabinets on historical issues, and that he felt sorry for those who suffered hardships and pain.

However, his remarks were seen as insufficient and insincere by many South Koreans, who demanded a formal and official apology from the Japanese government.

On Saturday night, before Kishida’s arrival, about 5,000 people held a candlelight vigil in Seoul to oppose his visit without an apology for historical issues.

The protest came amid strained relations between South Korea and Japan over various issues stemming from their shared history. The two countries have also been at odds over a group of disputed islands in the East Sea/Sea of Japan, known as Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese.

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