South Korean gets 4 years in prison for detonating bomb at Tokyo's controversial Yasukuni Shrine

Visitors seen at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, Japan, on April 21.
Visitors seen at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, Japan, on April 21.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (AFP) - A South Korean man was sentenced to four years in prison on Tuesday (July 19) for detonating a homemade pipe bomb at a controversial Tokyo war shrine.

During the trial, Jeon Chang Han, 28, reportedly admitted to illegally entering the shrine and detonating the bomb in a case that highlighted lingering tensions over Japan's former colonial rule of the Korean peninsula.

"The court handed down a four-year prison sentence with no suspended term," a Tokyo District Court spokesman told AFP, without elaborating.

Tokyo prosecutors had demanded a five-year sentence, claiming the explosion was an act of terrorism, according Jiji Press.

Presiding judge Kazunori Karei said the explosion was "highly dangerous and malicious", Jiji reported.

"It could have developed into a serious incident."

Jeon is believed to have left Japan after the blast, in which no one was hurt, but was arrested when he returned in early December - reportedly carrying 2kg of gunpowder.

The Yasukuni Shrine, which honours millions of Japan's war dead, including several senior military and political figures convicted of war crimes after World War II, has been targeted in the past by activists who see it as a symbol of Japan's militaristic past.

Visits by senior Japanese politicians to the shrine routinely draw an angry reaction from China and South Korea, which view them as an insult and painful reminder of now-pacifist Japan's history, including its former occupation of the peninsula.