Two South Korean demonstrators cut off their fingers outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul (search) on Monday to protest Tokyo's territorial claim to a set of islets controlled by South Korea.
The protest follows a proposal by Japanese provincial lawmakers to establish a commemoration day to bolster Tokyo's claim to the small islands, called Dokdo (search) in Korea and Takeshima (search) in Japan.
An ambulance quickly took away a middle-aged woman who sliced off her finger with a cutter. Another protester who also cut off his finger was removed by police.
Riot police sprayed fire extinguishers to disperse the protesters, who complained of what they called the South Korean government's "lukewarm" response to the Japanese claims.
Also Monday, Japan said its ambassador to South Korea has been called back temporarily to Tokyo.
Ambassador Toshiyuki Takano (search) returned to Tokyo on Sunday to "brief officials on the current situation and how to respond," Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said.
Hosoda refused to specify the reason for Takano's return. The diplomat infuriated South Koreans last month by saying the islets are "historically and legally part of the Japanese territory."
South Korea has warned it is willing to risk its relations with Japan over the territorial dispute.
The volcanic islets, which lie between the two countries in the Sea of Japan, are surrounded by rich fishing grounds and have long caused diplomatic friction between South Korea and Japan. South Korea has stationed a small detachment of police on the otherwise uninhabited islets, effectively controlling them.