PM to meet Lotte Group chief over S. Korea-Japan ties ahead of trip
SEOUL, Oct. 18 (Yonhap) -- Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon is expected to meet with the chief of Lotte Group on Friday to discuss frayed ties between South Korea and Japan ahead of his planned visit to Tokyo next week, government officials said.
Lee is set to have a closed-door dinner with Shin Dong-bin, who heads South Korea's retail giant Lotte Group, a meeting seen as aimed at exchanging views about the Seoul-Tokyo ties.
Lotte was founded in 1948 in Japan and grew into South Korea's fifth-largest conglomerate by assets, driven by its success in the retail, food and amusement business.
Shin is said to be well-versed in the situation in Japan and have extensive human networks there, including with politicians.
Lee will visit Japan from Tuesday to Thursday to attend the Japanese emperor's enthronement event amid the frosty relations between South Korea and Japan over Tokyo's wartime forced labor issue.
Lee is widely expected to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Japanese media outlets reported that consultations are under way to hold the Lee-Abe meeting Thursday.
If held, it would be the first high-level meeting between the two nations since the Korean Supreme Court ordered Japanese firms in October 2018 to compensate Korean victims of Tokyo's forced labor before and during World War II.
Lee is expected to work as a "facilitator" to enable the leaders of the two nations to hold a summit this year.
Expectations are growing that President Moon Jae-in may send a letter on the Seoul-Tokyo relations to Abe through the prime minister.
When it comes to Moon's letter, Noh Hyeong-ouk, chief of the Office for Government Policy Coordination, told lawmakers that nothing has been decided.
"We hope Lee's trip to Japan will help ease the strained relations between the two countries," Noh said.
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