Japanese rightist may face extradition
Suzuki allegedly defiled 'comfort woman' statue in Seoul
By Kim Rahn
The prosecution is considering seeking extradition of a Japanese rightwing activist who tied a wooden stake to a symbolic statue of a wartime Korean sex slave in front of the Japanese Embassy in downtown Seoul.
Investigators at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office said Wednesday that they are devising measures to bring the activist, Nobuyuki Suzuki, who is currently in Japan, to Korea.
“We are reviewing for which cases we sought extradition for Japanese offenders and studying whether we can apply it to Suzuki’s case as well,” a prosecutor said.
According to the extradition treaty signed between Korea and Japan in 2002, both governments can ask for extradition for people who are likely to face death penalty sentences, life imprisonment or a minimum one-year jail term. It doesn’t matter whether both Korea and Japan apply the same accusation on a specific crime.
On June 29, the 47-year-old ultra-rightist caused a stir because he tied the wooden stick to the statue of a young “comfort woman,” a memorial for women forced to serve as sex slaves for frontline Japanese troops during World War II.
Written on the stake was a statement that Takeshima, the Japanese name for Dokdo, belongs to Japan. Suzuki video-recorded the incident and posted the video clip on his blog.
Afterward 10 surviving comfort women filed a complaint with the prosecution against Suzuki for defamation last month. Prosecutors finished taking statements from the complainants, a due step before questioning the accused.
“We can’t forcibly investigate him because he holds Japanese nationality and is currently in Japan. If we apply for extradition, we’ll need cooperation from the government there,” the prosecutor said.
While the prosecution is considering taking legal action against Suzuki in Korea, a lawyer representing the former sex slaves is preparing to file a complaint with Japanese law enforcement authorities directly, in case domestic punishment is impossible.
“Prosecutors are studying similar cases to punish Suzuki here, but this may be impossible if the Japanese government refuses to cooperate. If so, we will file a complaint with the prosecution there by seeking help from Japanese people who agree with us,” lawyer Park Seon-ah said.
Currently, Suzuki is barred from entering Korea. But he said in an interview with a Korean broadcasting outlet last month that he sent four wooden stakes to Korea via his friends, adding that somebody else can set up the posts even if he cannot.