Japanese Wrestler-Turned-Lawmaker to Visit N.Korea

Former Japanese pro wrestler and incumbent lawmaker Antonio Inoki will visit North Korea on Monday to meet high-ranking officials there. He wants to promote sports exchanges and discuss his proposal for a trip by a delegation from the Diet, Kyodo News reported Thursday.

Inoki, a member of the Japan Restoration Party, has visited North Korea 27 times since 1995 and has apparently built up an impressive list of contacts in the North despite his party's far-right credentials.

In November last year, he went to North Korea without the required permission and set up a Pyongyang office of a non-profit sports exchange organization. At the time, he met former eminence grise Jang Song-taek and Kim Yong-il, the director of the International Department of the North's Workers Party, who apparently encouraged the proposed visit by Diet members.

Jang's last appearance in public before his execution was at that meeting with Inoki.

Kyodo reported that North Korea told Inoki that its response remained unchanged despite Jang's ouster.

englishnews@chosun.com / Jan. 10, 2014 11:03 KST