Top Asian News 4:36 a.m. GMT

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Hundreds of mourners gathered Friday near the Japanese Embassy in Seoul for the funeral of a South Korean woman forced as a girl into a brothel and sexually enslaved by the Japanese military in WWII. The mourners, dressed mostly in black on a bitterly cold morning and holding paper cutouts of yellow butterflies, followed a hearse carrying Kim Bok-dong that stopped in front of a bronze statue of a girl representing the thousands of Asian women experts say the Japanese military forced into front-line brothels as it pursued colonial ambitions. The scene near the embassy was the culmination of an hours-long march that wrapped up five days commemorating Kim, who had regularly led the rallies to demand that Japan more fully acknowledge the suffering of the so-called "comfort women," the euphemism given to the women by the Japanese and embraced by some of the dwindling number of victims over the term "sex slave." Japanese leaders have repeatedly offered apologies or expressions of remorse, but many of the women and their supporters want reparations from Tokyo and a fuller apology.

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia sweltered through its hottest month on record in January and the summer of extremes continued with wildfires razing the drought-parched south and flooding in expanses of the tropical north. Australia's Bureau of Meteorology confirmed the January record on Friday as parts of the northern hemisphere had record cold. Australia's scorching start to 2019 — in which the mean temperature across the country for the first time exceeded 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) — followed Australia's third-hottest year on record. Only 2005 and 2013 were warmer than 2018, which ended with the hottest December on record.

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — Dongyuan Li's business was called "You Win USA," and authorities say she coached pregnant Chinese women on how to get into the United States to deliver babies who would automatically enjoy all the benefits of American citizenship. Over two years, the now-41-year-old raked in millions through her business, where mothers-to-be paid between $40,000 and $80,000 each to come to California, stay in an upscale apartment and give birth, authorities said. Li, who was arrested Thursday, is one of 20 people charged in the first federal crackdown on birth tourism businesses that prosecutors said brought hundreds of pregnant women to the United States.

BEIJING (AP) — China is greeting the lunar new year with celebrations and a travel rush that will see an estimated 3 billion trips by people around the country. This year is the year of the pig in the 12-year Chinese astrological cycle and waves farewell to the year of the dog. The holiday that officially starts Tuesday is the most important in the Chinese calendar, a time for people to return to their hometowns to reunite with friends and family. On the festival's eve, people gather for reunion dinners, give red packets of pocket money to youngsters, and light firecrackers at midnight.

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka's president pledged to end the country's 43-year moratorium on capital punishment and execute condemned drug traffickers amid alarm over drug-related crimes. The statement on the government's website said President Maithripala Sirisena would order the executions soon but did not say how the prisoners would be executed. Sri Lanka last executed a prisoner in 1976. At the time, prisoners were hanged. Sirisena's announcement came after he visited the Philippines in January and praised President Rodrigo Duterte's drug crackdown as "an example to the world." Thousands of suspects have been killed in the crackdown that he launched after taking office in 2016, and rights groups have denounced the killings as extrajudicial executions.

SYDNEY (AP) — Scores of demonstrators rallied in Australia's two largest cities on Friday to demand that Thailand release a detained Bahraini soccer player who has refugee status in Australia. The demonstrations outside the Sydney Opera House and in Melbourne's Federation Square opposed Hakeem al-Araibi's potential extradition to Bahrain. "This is a young man who has been tortured by a country you are working with and are contemplating sending him back to," former Australian soccer team leader Craig Foster told the Sydney crowd in comments directed at Thailand. The rallies focused on Thailand and Indonesia's proposed joint bid for Association of Southeast Asian Nations to host the World Cup in 2034.

BANGKOK (AP) — A fleet of drones, trucks and small planes sprayed water to try to reduce air pollution around Bangkok on Thursday while the city's governor invited critics to brainstorm better ideas to improve the air quality in the Thai capital. Unhealthy pollution levels forced city schools to close Wednesday for the rest of week, and many residents are wearing air-filtering masks while they're outdoors. Faced with public discontent as well as a possible health crisis, Bangkok's governor, Police Gen. Asawin Kwanmuang, has declared the city a "pollution control zone," allowing firmer measures such as road closings and limits on diesel exhaust, outdoor burning and construction activities.

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — More than 5,000 Bangladesh workers who demanded higher wages have been fired by factory owners, and hundreds face police charges in the world's second-largest garment export industry after China, an activist said Thursday. Kalpona Akter of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity said the firings came after thousands of workers took to the streets earlier this month in and around Dhaka, the nation's capital. But an industry leader said Thursday that the dismissed workers were involved in vandalism or other crimes, or were laid off when factories closed because of business losses. One worker was killed and more than 50 were injured in clashes during the protests in the Ashulia, Dhaka, Gazipur and Savar areas.

The world's largest annual migration is taking place in China as millions of people travel home to celebrate the Lunar New Year. In other images from the Asia-Pacific region this week, people in Bangkok wore masks to filter out air pollution, which forced schools to close temporarily. Malaysia's King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah was welcomed at Parliament House in Kuala Lumpur after replacing a sultan who abdicated the throne unexpectedly. The Kumbh Mela bathing ritual is taking place in Prayagraj, India. Hindus believe bathing in the confluence of rivers cleanses them of their sins and ends their process of reincarnation.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Thursday talked up China's commitment to buy more American soybeans. But the tough issues dividing the world's two biggest economies remained unsettled after two days of meetings between U.S. and Chinese negotiators. Trump said he expects to meet with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, to try to reach a final resolution to the six-month trade standoff. "If we come to an agreement, there is a lot of work that has to be done," U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told reporters, summarizing what he said were two days and an evening of "very intense, detailed and specific discussions." "It's my judgment that we made headway," he said, declining to outline specific areas where he thought the two sides had made progress.