Moon decides not to visit Japan: Cheong Wa Dae

July 19, 2021

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has decided not to visit Japan this week, as no satisfactory accomplishment is expected in proposed summit talks, Cheong Wa Dae announced Monday.

Moon plans to send Hwang Hee, minister of culture, sports and tourism, there to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, slated for Friday, as head of his government’s delegation.

The president had considered a trip to Tokyo for the event. South Korea and Japan had consultations on the possibility of holding the first face-to-face summit between Moon and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on the occasion.

The two sides “had meaningful discussions on progress regarding historical issues and future-oriented cooperation,” according to Park Soo-hyun, senior Cheong Wa Dae secretary for public communication.

Although the consultations produced a “significant level” of mutual understanding, the extent of the progress was deemed “still insufficient” to indicate an accomplishment at the summit talks, he said in a statement

In addition, various other situations were comprehensively considered for the decision, Park added.

Cheong Wa Dae expressed hope that Japan will host the Olympics, a festival of peace for people around the world, safely and successfully.

A Cheong Wa Dae official said later that inappropriate comments made recently by a high-level Japanese diplomat here against Moon affected his decision not to visit Tokyo.

Hirohisa Soma, deputy chief of mission at the Japanese Embassy, reportedly told a South Korean reporter that Moon’s diplomatic efforts with Japan are tantamount to “masturbating.” He was quoted as saying that Japan “does not have the time to care so much about the relationship between the two countries as South Korea thinks.”

It is hard to tolerate Soma’s reported comments, the Cheong Wa Dae official told reporters on background.

“We had to consider that public sentiment and the internal mood of Cheong Wa Dae (regarding the issue of Moon’s Japan visit) turned skeptical (following the related report),” he said on the condition of anonymity.

He said Cheong Wa Dae is taking note of the Japanese government’s expression of regret over the diplomat’s wrongdoing. He urged it to take appropriate follow-up measures and prevent the recurrence of a similar problem.

Opinion polls have shown that many South Koreans are opposed to Moon making a trip to Tokyo.

Cheong Wa Dae has openly set a guarantee of making meaningful accomplishments in summit talks as a precondition for Moon’s possible visit there. Seoul is seeking a resolution to longstanding disputes over shared history and Tokyo’s unilateral export curbs launched in 2019.

“Our ultimate goal was to restore the (bilateral) relations. But we thought that more discussions are necessary,” the Cheong Wa Dae official said.

Relations between the neighboring countries have remained at a low point due primarily to the thorny issue of compensating Korean victims of forced labor and sexual enslavement by Japan during its colonial rule from 1910-45.