A weekly protest held in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul to demand justice for women forced into military sex slavery during World War II on Wednesday was disrupted when an elderly man suddenly set himself on fire amid bushes next to where the crowd was gathered.
Investigations are ongoing. It is not known what condition he is in, but the Yonhap News Agency has reported that he is an 81-year-old South Korean.
About 1,000 people joined three South Korean victims of military sexual slavery in the protest on Wednesday, demand an apology and compensation from Japan for its wartime atrocities.
The gathering was the largest this year as it came amid mounting presure on Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to issue a formal apology ahead of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Aug 15 marks Liberation Day for South Korea, which was under Japanese colonial rule for 35 years until the war ended in 1945.
Student Choi Go Eun, 16, skipped classes to join the rally with a friend. She said she came to support the comfort women victims.
"We will help you, so please cheer up and continue to fight until the Japanese government apologises to you," she told The Straits Times.
Officially named Wednesday Demonstration, the event was started in January 1992 by civic group Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan. It has since been held more than 1,100 times.
Wednesday's event also featured speeches, performances and a fund-raising segment.
Historians estimate that more than 200,000 women, mostly Koreans, were forced to work in military brothels for Japanese soldiers during World War II. They are euphemistically called comfort women.
Of the 238 women registered with the South Korean government, only 47 are still alive.
Most of them are in their late 80s and 90s. Eight of them died this year alone, the latest being Ms Park Yoo Nyun, 93, who served in a military brothel in Singapore.