Amidst the issue surrounding news of the execution of Kim Jong Un’s uncle, Jang Song Thaek, wrestler-turned-lawmaker Antonio Inoki said that he plans on visiting North Korea before the start of Japan’s next Diet session around late January.
This would be Inoki’s 28th visit to the country. During his last trip in November, he met up with the North Korean leader’s uncle to discuss the probability of expanding his nonprofit organization that focuses on a sports exchange program in Pyongyang. The trip earned him a disciplinary sanction as soon as he got back in Japan, because it was not approved by the Diet. All lawmakers are required to obtain a special permit for their overseas trips when the Diet is in session.
Prior to winning a seat on the parliament’s upper house opposition Japan Restoration Party, Inoki was a professional wrestler who trained under the famous Rikizodan, who was believed to have founded wrestling in Japan and was originally from North Korea. Being Rikizodan’s protégé made Inoki very famous with the northern neighbors. Despite Inoki being a staunch supporter of mending ties with Pyongyang, the Japanese government denied sending Inoki to represent the country during his previous visits to the North Korean capital. In 1990, Inoki also flew to Baghdad during the First Gulf War and was instrumental in the release of Japanese citizens being held there.