BEIJING, July 18 (Yonhap) -- A Chinese man who served a jail term in South Korea for an attack on the Japanese Embassy in Seoul about two years ago told China's state media on Friday that his grandmother had been forced into prostitution by the Japanese military during World War II.
The 40-year-old man, Liu Qiang, made headlines in South Korea, China and Japan in January 2013, when a Seoul court decided not to extradite him to Japan for punishment for a separate arson attack on a controversial war shrine in Tokyo, ruling that the crime he had committed was politically motivated.
At that time, Japan had asked South Korea to hand over Liu, who had served a 10-month prison term in Seoul for throwing Molotov cocktails into the Japanese Embassy in Seoul in 2012, so that he could stand trial for the 2011 arson attack on the Yasukuni Shrine.
The South Korean court proceedings were closely watched because Beijing also asked Seoul to allow him to return home, arguing that the alleged arson attack in Tokyo was not personally motivated. Sandwiched between the two neighbors, the Seoul government decided to resolve the dispute through a court ruling. South Korea has extradition treaties with both China and Japan.
Since returning to China, Liu has appeared in front of the Japanese consulate in Guangzhou at least once each month since February this year, in what he calls an act of protest against Japan's "denial of the invasion of China during World War II," Liu told the Global Times newspaper in an interview.
Headlined "Japan embassy attacker reveals family's wartime suffering," the Chinese newspaper carried the interview with Liu at a time when diplomatic frictions between China and Japan were simmering over their shared history and territorial dispute.
In the interview, Liu said his grandmother Yang Ying revealed a secret to him before she died.
Yang, a Korean, was captured and brought to China to work as a sexual slave by Japanese soldiers during the war, according to the interview. His grandmother stayed in China after the war and married.
According to historians, up to 200,000 women, mostly Koreans, were coerced into sexual servitude at front-line Japanese brothels during the war when the Korean Peninsula was a Japanese colony. Those sex slaves were euphemistically called "comfort women."
Despite the tragedy of his grandmother, Liu told the newspaper that "The seed of hatred for Japanese had never been planted in his heart" at the time.
Liu, who worked as a volunteer in Japan after a massive earthquake and tsunami devastated the country in 2011, said he had never thought he would set fire to the Yasukuni Shrine.
"Then, changes happened. When he offered volunteer work in Japan, he enrolled in a local Japanese language school, where he found that teachers were polite to students from other countries, except the Chinese. He felt humiliated. Sometimes, he even clashed with teachers when arguing about the history of World War II," the interview said.
"On Dec. 18, 2011, Liu became enraged when he read in a newspaper that the Japanese government had rejected a request proposed by then South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to squarely face the issue of comfort women," it said.
"It reminded me of the humiliation of my grandmother who was forced to be a comfort woman," Liu was quoted as saying.
The Chinese newspaper said Liu's "provocative acts" have drawn mixed opinions from Chinese people, with some Internet users saying he has gone too far and criticizing him for "acting to get famous" while others said Chinese people should be more tough.
Liu said he has "no regrets."
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