SEOUL– A delegation of President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol carried a letter from Yoon as it left for Tokyo on Sunday for meetings with top Japanese officials, possibly including Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, officials said.
Yoon’s spokesperson, Bae Hyun-jin, declined to confirm whether the delegation will be meeting with Kishida during the five-day trip. But chances of a meeting with him appear to be high as another official said the delegation carried a letter from Yoon.
“Coordination is under way for a meeting with the prime minister,” Bae said during a daily press briefing. “With regard to the outcome of the visit, the delegation will be making an announcement by itself. I have nothing to confirm or that I know of now.”
Sources said a meeting with Kishida is expected to take place Wednesday.
The seven-member delegation, led by Rep. Chung Jin-suk of Yoon’s People Power Party, is also expected to meet with Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi on Monday, while meetings with former Prime Ministers Shinzo Abe and Yoshihide Suga are also being pushed for, according to the sources.
Upon arrival in Tokyo, the delegation plans to pay tribute at the monument honoring Lee Soo-hyun, 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.
The delegation could discuss the possibility of Kishida attending Yoon’s May 10 inauguration ceremony and ways to improve relations between the two countries frayed badly over issues related to Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, such as wartime sexual slavery and forced labor.
Yoon has stressed the importance of strengthening relations with Japan, as well as trilateral cooperation among Seoul, Washington and Tokyo, saying his focus will be on building a “future-oriented” partnership with the neighboring country.
A day after his election last month, Yoon spoke by phone with Kishida and agreed to work together to promote “friendly cooperation” between their countries. Kishida was the second foreign leader that Yoon spoke to after U.S. President Joe Biden.
The delegation also includes Rep. Kim Seok-ki; Yun Duk-min, former head of the Korea National Diplomatic Academy; Park Cheol-hee, a professor at Seoul National University’s Graduate School of International Studies; former Ambassador to Singapore Lee Sang-deok; and former Ambassador to Cambodia Chang Ho-jin.
Source: Yonhap News Agency