|Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon walks into a room to preside over a Cabinet meeting at the Government Complex Sejong, Tuesday. Yonhap|
By Park Ji-won
Hopes are high that Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon might attend the enthronement ceremony of new Japanese Emperor Naruhito in October, leading to a breakthrough in the ongoing trade row between Seoul and Tokyo.
A day after President Moon Jae-in opened the door for dialogue with Japanese politicians in hopes of finding a resolution, political analysts in Seoul said Tuesday Prime Minister Lee would convey Moon's messages to mend the souring bilateral ties during his possible participation in the ceremony.
Officials at the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) said Tuesday the government is "considering sending" the PM to Japan as a de-facto special envoy in the upcoming key ceremony to proclaim the Japanese emperor's accession on Oct. 22.
"Japan probably plans to use the upcoming event as a turning point in addressing the trade dispute. Given PM Lee's rich network in Japan, sending him as an envoy would be a good political gesture but only if conditions are met," a DPK official said, adding Japan plans to invite guests from 195 countries to attend the Oct. 22 event.
During a weekly meeting with his senior presidential secretaries, President Moon stressed the necessity of pursuing a "dual-track" approach in responding to Tokyo's recent decision to drop South Korea from its list of countries granted preferential trade status.
As a former correspondent in Japan, Lee has widely been considered an asset in terms of bringing help for Seoul to possibly initiate an "exit strategy" for the dispute. He recently met with influential Japanese politicians, business tycoon and senior financiers off the record including Yasuhiro Sato, chairman of Japan's megabank Mizuho Financial Group, at the Seoul Government Complex, for thorough discussions relating to the estimated impact of the Japanese decision on the South Korean economy and industries.
Regarding the PM's possible visit to Tokyo, officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said nothing has been decided yet.
On a related note, Japanese Ambassador to Seoul Yasumasa Nagamine told Rep. Yoon Sang-hyun, chairman of the National Assembly's Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee, that it would be ideal for Seoul to send an envoy before the scheduled enthronement event.
Reports said Japanese suppliers of hydrogen fluoride and other key chemicals used to make semiconductors asked Samsung executives not to switch suppliers despite trade restrictions being enforced by Tokyo. Samsung Electronics is the world's largest supplier of computer memory chips and largely procures these materials from Japanese companies.