Moon's Pick for Japan Ambassador Raises Eyebrows in Tokyo

  • By Lee Ha-won

    November 25, 2020 12:57

    There were rumblings among rightwingers in Tokyo on Tuesday when President Moon Jae-in's pick for new ambassador to Japan was announced.

    On the face of it, veteran Minjoo Party lawmaker Kang Chang-il, an expert on Japanese affairs with a Ph.D from the University of Tokyo, has excellent connections in Japan on all sides of the political spectrum, but he has not always managed to steer clear of the island country's simmering territorial resentments.

    Kang Chang-il /Yonhap

    In his capacity as chairman of the National Assembly's special committee on Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo, Kang visited one of Russia's Kuril Islands with two other lawmakers in May 2011. There, Kang let it slip that he believed the islands to be Russian.

    Japan, which claims sovereignty over four of the islands, protested. Members of the Japan-Korea Parliamentarians' Union took issue with the trip and postponed a planned visit to Seoul. Lawmaker Tomomi Inada, then the acting secretary general of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, even called for Kang and his colleagues to be banned from Japan.

    "It's inconsistent for Moon to pick an anti-Japanese person as new ambassador to Tokyo while saying he is hoping for improved ties between the two countries," a source in the LDP said.

    It remains to be seen whether that is the official Japanese government line or a gripe limited to the far-right fringe of the ruling party.

    Kang was chairman of the Korea-Japan Parliamentarians' Union until he lost his National Assembly seat this year. He visited Tokyo in July last year, when Japan tightened controls on the export of high-tech products to Korea, but Toshihiro Nikai, the secretary-general of the LDP, refused to meet him. 

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