The Prime Minister of South Korea has proposed that Emperor Akihito of Japan visit his country before retiring as a way to enhance the bilateral relationship between the countries.
“If [the Emperor] visits South Korea before his abdication and removes obstacles that have hindered efforts by the two countries to date, the visit will become a big help for the development of bilateral relations,” said Lee Nak-yon in an interview with the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun.
“I hope that the climate for such a visit can be achieved as early as possible.”
Emperor Akihito announced his intention to abdicate the Chrysanthemum Throne in a rare televised address in August 2016, citing advancing age and health concerns as his primary reasons for wanting to abdicate the throne.
On 8 June 2017, Japan enacted a law allowing for the Emperor to abdicate. Previously it hadn’t been allowed under Imperial Household Law, so Japanese lawmakers had to create a one-off law that would allow Emperor Akihito to abdicate. The abdication must take place within the next three years and only applies to Akihito.
It has been speculated that the Emperor will abdicate at the end of 2018 when he turns 85 and marks 30 years on the throne. Crown Prince Naruhito will ascend to the throne.
Prime Minister Lee said that the South Korean government will make an effort to secure such a visit, and also mentioned in the interview that 2018 marks the twentieth anniversary of the ‘Japan-South Korea declaration for partnership’.
“That was a period when relations between South Korea and Japan were at their best. It will be good if bilateral relations can be restored to that level. I hope that our respective diplomatic channels can get started on the relevant discussions.”
Prime Minister Lee spoke of the relationship between South Korea and Japan and how it has blown hot and cold in the past, but remains hopeful that the countries work together to improve relations saying, “It is true that the South Korean people harbor feelings of love and hatred [towards Japan], but there are many things South Korea can share [with Japan].”