(LEAD) S. Korean lawmakers depart for Tokyo for annual meeting with Japanese counterparts

Dozens of lawmakers from the ruling and opposition parties departed for Tokyo on Thursday to attend an annual meeting with their Japanese counterparts.

A total of 37 members of the South Korea-Japan Parliamentarians' Union flew out to Japan to attend the union's 44th joint conference with Japanese lawmakers Friday.

Upon arrival Thursday, they are scheduled to meet with Korean residents in Japan.

"Last year was the 50th anniversary since the union's establishment. This year's joint conference is important in that it marks the first step toward another 50 years onward," Rep. Chung Jin-suk, the co-chair of the union, told reporters ahead of departure.

"There has been a huge progress in bilateral relations thanks to the courageous decision of President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Our purpose is to save this momentum through active parliamentary diplomacy from lawmakers of the two countries," he said.

The conference will cover 18 topics, including talks on establishing a security system in East Asia, energy supply chain issues, and future exchanges in areas such as economy, culture and people, he said.

The issue regarding the Fukushima water discharge was not included among the list, Chung said. But he added that "any issue could be brought up" during discussions.

A meeting with Kishida is unlikely, he also said, due to a recent Cabinet reshuffle and a schedule conflict.

This year's conference comes as relations between Seoul and Tokyo have warmed significantly following South Korea's decision in March to compensate Korean victims of Japanese wartime forced labor on its own without asking for contributions from Japanese firms.

The thaw in relations was little affected by Japan's release of treated radioactive water from its crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean, as Seoul has maintained the discharge will have little effect on the environment as long as it is done in a scientifically safe way.

Twenty-six of the South Korean lawmakers are from the ruling People Power Party, nine from the main opposition Democratic Party, as well as Rep. Lee Eun-ju from the minor Justice Party and independent lawmaker Yang Jung-suk.

The South Korea-Japan Parliamentarians' Union is a meeting to foster exchanges between lawmakers from the two countries and meets together every year, alternating between Seoul and Tokyo. Its latest joint conference was held in Seoul last November.

The South Korean lawmakers are scheduled to return home on Saturday.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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