S. Korean prime minister to meet Abe on Thursday during trip to Japan

October 18, 2019

South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon plans to meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday as part of efforts to improve the frosty relations between Seoul and Tokyo, his office said.

Lee will visit Japan from Tuesday to Thursday to attend the Japanese emperor’s enthronement event amid frayed ties between South Korea and Japan over the issue of Tokyo’s wartime forced labor.

Consultations are under way to set the details of the meeting, but it is likely to take place on Thursday for about 10-20 minutes, an official at Lee’s office said Friday.

It will be the first high-level meeting between the two nations since diplomatic tensions flared up over the Korean top court’s 2018 rulings over Japan’s forced labor during the 1910-45 colonial rule of Korea.

Since July, Japan has imposed export curbs against its neighbor in apparent retaliation for the South Korean top court’s 2018 rulings that Japanese firms should compensate Korean victims of Tokyo’s wartime forced labor.

This undated file photo shows South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon (L) and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. (Yonhap)
This file photo, taken Sept. 11, 2018, shows South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon (L) shaking hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at talks in Vladivostok on the sidelines of an economic forum. (Yonhap)

This undated file photo shows South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon (L) and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. (Yonhap)

Lee plans to voice the government’s commitment to improving ties with Japan during the meeting with Abe, his office said.

The prime minister may deliver a personal letter by President Moon Jae-in over the bilateral relations.

Earlier in the day, the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said it has no announcement to make yet on whether Moon will send a letter to Abe.

Lee will also congratulate the Emperor Naruhito’s enthronement and wish for Japanese people’s happiness with the opening of the Reiwa era.

A message of sympathy will be also delivered to Abe over the damage caused by the latest Typhoon Hagibis.

As for details for the itinerary, Lee will attend Emperor Naruhito’s enthronement ceremony and palace banquet set for Tuesday.

On Wednesday, he will attend an official dinner to be hosted by Abe and his wife at a hotel in Tokyo.

During the trip, Lee plans to meet a wide range of politicians and business leaders, as well as young Japanese people.

Lee is scheduled on Wednesday to meet Natsuo Yamaguchi, chief of the Komeito party, junior coalition partner of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party; Yukio Edano, head of the Constitutional Democratic Party; and former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, president of the organizing committee for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

To pay tribute, he will visit the monument honoring Lee Soo-hyun on Tuesday, a Korean hero who died trying to rescue a drunk Japanese man who had fallen onto the subway tracks in Tokyo in 2001. The late Lee is regarded as a symbol of friendly ties between the two nations.

Also a town-hall meeting is scheduled for Wednesday with around 20 Japanese college students to discuss bilateral relations with them.

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