Ministry mulls sending Chinese activist to Tokyo

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Ministry mulls sending Chinese activist to Tokyo

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Korea’s Ministry of Justice is considering a plan to hand over Liu Qiang, the 38-year-old Chinese man who was arrested earlier this year for throwing firebombs at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, to Tokyo once he is released from his 10-month jail term on Nov. 8.

The ministry, along with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, has been in an ongoing diplomatic dilemma. Both Japan and China have pressured Korea to give them Liu after he is released from prison.

“There is no procedural flaw in either sending Liu Qiang to China treating him as a political prisoner, or sending him to Japan based on the extradition treaty between Korea and Japan,” said an official from the justice ministry on Wednesday.

“But since he did confess that he was the one who set the fire at the Yasukuni Shrine [in Tokyo in December, last year], there are many views [in Korea] that it’s difficult to ignore Japan’s request.”

The foreign affairs ministry is also known to have delivered its thoughts to the justice ministry recently to “extradite Liu based on the bilateral treaty on criminal extradition with Japan.”

Liu, who is from Guangzhou, was arrested and charged by Seoul police officials on Jan. 8 with throwing four Molotov cocktails at the Japanese Embassy in Junghak-dong, central Seoul.

He received a 10-month jail term and will be released on Nov. 8.

His maternal grandmother was a Korean woman from Pyongyang who was forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II.

Liu is known to have told Seoul police officials that he threw the firebombs at the embassy out of anger, thinking that Japan has not shown enough sincerity in resolving the so-called “comfort women” issue with Korea, along with other wartime misdeeds.

He also confessed that he set a fire in December of last year at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo. This prompted Japan to officially request Korea to extradite him to Japan while China, on the other hand, has appealed to Korea that Seoul should solve the issue in a fair and proper way so that Liu is assured his rights.

The ultimate authority in deciding where to send Liu is given to Justice Minister Kwon Jae-jin, and if Kwon officially orders Liu to be extradited to Japan, the Seoul Public Prosecutor’s Office will evaluate Liu and decide if it is proper to extradite him to Japan.

The decision should be made within a two-month period.

If the court decides to extradite Liu and it is once again confirmed by Minister Kwon, Liu will be sent to Japan within one month after discussing legal matters with Tokyo.

“Minister Kwon is currently receiving feedback from various sectors,” said Lee Dong-yeol, spokesman at the justice ministry. “Since Liu’s release date is nearing, there will be a decision made soon.”

By Lee Dong-hyun, Lee Eun-joo [angie@joongang.co.kr]

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