A group of 10 South Korean lawmakers visited Japan on Wednesday to help resolve a monthlong trade row between the two countries.
During a two-day stay, they will meet leading politicians and call for a diplomatic resolution to the dispute sparked by Japan's curbs on exports to South Korea of three industrial materials early this month.
Japan is expected to go further and pass a bill Friday to drop its neighbor from a list of 27 countries given preferential trade status.
"We will have sincere discussions about the measures, including suspending the removal of Korea from the whitelist, so that our talks could be conveyed to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe," Rep. Suh Chung-won, an independent lawmaker who is heading the delegation, told reporters at Gimpo International Airport before leaving for Japan.
Rep. Suh Chung-won speaks at a meeting with a group of Korean-Japanese members in Tokyo on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
They began the trip with a lunch meeting with 10 Japanese lawmakers, including Fukushiro Nukaga of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), a co-head of the South Korea-Japan Parliamentarians' Union.
"We clearly shared a perception that with these grave issues, it will not be of help to either country if things continue to go this way," Suh told reporters after the nearly 2-hour meeting.
The delegation asked their counterparts to prevent the Japanese government from delisting South Korea. The removal would allow Japan to broadly restrict exports to South Korea by requiring Japanese exporters to seek licenses on a case by case basis for hundreds of industrial items that could also be used in producing weapons.
The lawmakers said the possible delisting would compromise the two countries' security cooperation on coping with North Korea's threats. Some opposition parties recently proposed Seoul scrap its military information-sharing agreement with Japan.
The two sides also discussed the issue of wartime forced labor.
South Korea views Japan's trade curbs as retaliation for Seoul court rulings that ordered Japanese firms to compensate victims of wartime forced labor.
Nukaga called on Seoul to resolve the legal disputes with Japan over the issue and Suh promised to cooperate to settle the conflicts, one of the participants said.
The delegation later met Natsuo Yamaguchi, leader of the Komeito party, the LDP's coalition partner, and held a meeting with Korean-Japanese businesspeople. The delegation will speak with Toshihiro Nikai, secretary-general of the ruling LDP on Thursday.
Before leaving Seoul, Suh said the parliamentary delegation will request their cooperation in de-escalating the tension between their countries.
"If the delisting occurs, it would have a great ripple effect and a catastrophic result," he said. "We will sincerely request the two countries take more time and that foreign affairs chiefs meet and make efforts so that the problem will not spread further," Suh said.