Fresh from his visit to North Korea, wrestler-turned-lawmaker Antonio Inoki said that the communist state has “officially” invited Japanese lawmakers to their country. The 70-year old Upper House Member from the Japan Restoration Party said that the invitation was extended to finally discuss issues that have hindered good relations between the two countries to be established, such as the abduction of Japanese citizens in Pyongyang during the 70s and 80s.
Inoki visited the north from January 13 to 16, his 28th visit to the reclusive country. He met with the secretary of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea in-charge of international affairs, Kim Yong Il and other top officials of the North Korea-Japan friendship association, which acts as the de facto intermediary for the two nations, which do not have existing diplomatic ties with each other. Inoki said that association officials presented him with a document formally inviting members of the Japanese Parliament to discuss the topic of advocating friendship and goodwill between the two countries “to contribute to the normalization of relations between the two nations.” The invitation was also extended to Keiji Furuya, the state minister who is handling the abduction issue.
Known to have the most number of visits to North Korea than any other Japanese legislator, Inoki’s last visit to the country was in November where he met up with Jang Song Thaek, uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Jang was considered the second most powerful in North Korea that time and was executed in December on charges of trying to grab power from his nephew. While association officials branded Jang a traitor of the state, they reiterated that their relationship with Inoki would remain the same. The former wrestler is a known advocate of sports, establishing sports exchange programs between Japan and North Korea, including friendly soccer and basketball matches between college students. A professional wrestling event is also being prepared for this summer in Pyongyang. The move is to help “make further efforts at exchanges in order to allow North Korea to send a delegation to the Tokyo Summer Olympics in 2020, “ according to Inoki.
[via The Asahi Shimbun}