Lawmakers give message in Tokyo to Japanese PMIn a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a group of bipartisan Korean lawmakers on Thursday conveyed Seoul’s wish to mark this year - the 50th anniversary of ties between Seoul and Tokyo - as a new starting point.
The meeting had long been anticipated, as Saenuri Party Rep. Suh Chung-won, who led the delegation Korea-Japan lawmakers’ association, was expected to pass on a message from President Park Geun-hye to the Japanese prime minister. The two have yet to meet in person due to frayed bilateral ties over historical disputes.
While Suh did not have a written letter from President Park, he conveyed her intention verbally.
“This year, which marks the 50th anniversary of normalization of bilateral ties is a very important year,” Suh told Abe at the prime minister’s official residence. “It would be good for this to be an opportunity for a new start.”
He also expressed hope that “Japan would take the lead in restoring the dignity” of the women who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military before and during World War II.
Suh, a lawmaker known to be close to the president, and seven other lawmakers from the Korea-Japan Parliamentarians’ Union were in Tokyo on a three-day trip to Japan, where they were scheduled to meet with Japanese political leaders and speak with the press.
“There is a need to emphasize the importance of taking a clear stance succeeding the Kono Statement,” he said earlier that day in a press conference.
He added that if the Abe government does not change its position and maintain the 1993 apology issued by Yohei Kono, the chief cabinet secretary at the time, “Relations between Korea and Japan may become difficult.”
Next month, lawmakers from the parliamentary unions of the two countries will hold a baduk tournament as well as a football match in Korea in late spring.
This comes as the first Korea-Japan governors’ meeting in seven years is scheduled to be held in Tokyo at the end of the month, according to the Governors Association of Korea.
BY SARAH KIM, KIM HYUN-KI [firstname.lastname@example.org]