Lawmakers head to U.S. to talk trade row

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Lawmakers head to U.S. to talk trade row

A Korean parliamentary delegation departed for Washington Wednesday to discuss the trade spat between Seoul and Tokyo with U.S. officials and attend a lawmakers’ forum involving the three countries.

The bipartisan group was led by Rep. Chung Sye-kyun of the ruling Democratic Party, a former National Assembly speaker, and also includes lawmakers from the main opposition Liberty Korea Party and minor opposition Bareunmirae Party.

The Korean delegation will make a five-day trip to the United States and is expected to raise awareness of Japan’s implementation of unilateral export restrictions to Korea on key materials needed in the semiconductor and display industries earlier this month.

Seoul has asked for Washington’s involvement in containing the issue, which could also have an impact on the U.S. economy and the global supply chain. The spat comes as Tokyo protested Korea’s top court rulings ordering Japanese companies to compensate individual victims of forced labor during World War II. Japan is next reviewing removing Korea from its so-called “white list” of countries with minimal export regulations, citing national security concerns.

The Korean lawmakers are scheduled to meet with senior U.S. State Department officials and American lawmakers, and are expected to seek their opinions on resolving the issue to help strengthen the Korea-U.S. alliance and also enable better trilateral cooperation with Japan.

They will also attend a biannual Korea-Japan-U.S. lawmakers’ forum, launched in 2003. The 26th Korea-U.S.-Japan Trilateral Legislative Exchange Program is set to take place Friday in Washington, and the Korean lawmakers will deliver a resolution demanding Japan withdraw its export restrictions.

The Korean lawmakers, according to National Assembly sources, are fluent in English and can communicate without interpreters.

The U.S. bipartisan delegation includes Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Rep. Mark Takano of California and Rep. Ted Yoho of Florida.

“We plan to request for the withdrawal of [Japan’s] export restrictions, conveying the thought of our people, government and National Assembly,” Democratic Party Rep. Lee Soo-hyuck, a member of the delegation, said at the Incheon International Airport before departing to the United States Wednesday. “We plan to explain our position thoroughly to gain understanding from Japanese and U.S. lawmakers.”

A separate parliamentary delegation, led by independent Rep. Suh Chung-won, is scheduled to visit Tokyo from July 31 to Aug. 1 to meet with Japanese lawmakers including Toshihiro Nikai, secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, and Natsuo Yamaguchi, leader of the party’s coalition partner Komeito.

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