Suspect in shrine case carried in bomb parts

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Suspect in shrine case carried in bomb parts

The 27-year-old Korean man suspected to be behind the Yasukuni Shrine blast last month reportedly carried into Tokyo on Wednesday a powdery substance presumed to be explosives, batteries and a timer, according to Japanese media on Friday.

When he was arrested by Tokyo police upon his arrival at Haneda Airport in Tokyo on Wednesday morning, Jeon allegedly carried equipment that could be used to set off an explosion, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported. It was similar to what was found in the men’s restroom of the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo after the Nov. 23 blast.

Batteries, a digital timer and pipes containing explosives were found in the restroom of the shrine afterward. Tokyo police had CCTV footage of a suspicious man lurking in front of the restroom. They linked it to a Korean guest in a hotel in the same neighborhood in Chiyoda Ward.

Over the past three days, there was much mystery surrounding why Jeon chose to return to Tokyo on Wednesday. Jeon returned to Korea on Nov. 23 from a three-day trip to Tokyo, right after the Yasukuni explosion.

He was identified by Japanese officials, and Japanese media tried questioning him in Korea. Amid concerns whether the Korean suspect would be extradited to Japan or if the process could cause diplomatic tensions between Seoul and Tokyo, Jeon suddenly turned up at Haneda Airport on Wednesday morning. He then apparently agreed to undergo questioning by Tokyo police officials, who arrested him on the spot for entering the shrine with unlawful purposes on Nov. 22 and 23. Jeon even had a return ticket booked for later on Wednesday.

Japanese media speculate that Jeon re-entered the country on Wednesday with the purpose of attempting another explosion.

NHK further reported that Jeon, who is in the custody of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, testified to authorities that he had returned to Japan for another attempt after failing the last time, before retracting the statement.

He reportedly said that he had installed the explosive device on Nov. 23 and that he had “personal grievances with the Yasukuni Shrine,” before taking back those statements as well.

Yasukuni is considered controversial because it honors, among Japan’s war dead, 14 Class A war criminals and is considered a symbol of the country’s militarism.

Police are confirming if the DNA on cigarettes found in the Yasukuni restroom match Jeon’s DNA.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department forwarded Jeon to prosecutors for further investigation on Friday.

Japanese media began to report on the case since Dec. 3, when it was revealed that a Korean man was spotted near the restroom 30 minutes before the blast on CCTV footage, citing Tokyo Metropolitan Police officials as a source. Soon afterward, Japanese reporters got hold of Jeon’s home phone number in Gunsan, North Jeolla, and aggressively tried to interview him.

The Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs lodged a complaint on Thursday through diplomatic channels to the Japanese government on the invasive method of the Japanese media’s reporting of Jeon’s case, saying it exposes too many personal details, including his full name and photo of his face.

But Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said in a briefing on Thursday regarding Seoul’s complaint that “the police did not in particular provide the name or the photograph of the face at all, and it’s probably the media that did things as they pleased.”

The Japanese government was not involved, he said.

Upon his arrest, Jeon’s face was broadcast over television and photographs of his face printed in media even before an official investigation began.

This added to suspicions in Seoul that the Japanese police have been releasing information that condemns Jeon of the crime even before a proper investigation.

Jeon, a former Korean Air Force commissioned officer, told media on Wednesday that he had returned to Tokyo because he wanted “to check the restroom” at Yasukuni after all the questions he had been receiving from Japanese reporters.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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