South Korea summoned the Japanese ambassador on Saturday after reports that another senior diplomat called South Korean President Moon Jae-in “masturbating”.
A local broadcaster said the diplomat made the comment to his reporters while talking about Moon’s desire to meet Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and discuss improving bilateral ties, which are currently at an all-time low.
According to the report, the diplomat added that Japan had “no space to pay attention to Seoul-Tokyo relations” at the moment.
The comments come as South Korea and Japan have reportedly discussed a possible high-level meeting during the Tokyo Olympics.
“Highly inappropriate” comments
Japanese Ambassador Koichi Aiboshi identified the diplomat concerned as his deputy Hirohisa Soma and called the remarks “highly inappropriate”, without repeating what was actually said.
“While it is true that such terms were used during the conversation, they were not aimed at President Moon,” Aiboshi said in a statement. He said he had “sternly warned” Soma.
This was not enough for South Korea’s Deputy Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun, who called for Soma to be punished.
According to the South Korean Foreign Ministry, Choi told Aiboshi that such remarks “seriously denigrate” efforts to restore ties and that “appropriate measures must be taken.”
Clashes over flags at the Olympic Games
Relations between the two countries are still strained by disputes over Japan’s colonial rule over the Korean peninsula at the start of the 20th century.
In another reflection of the difficult relations, the South Korean Olympic team on Saturday withdrew banners from the Olympic Village considered by some Japanese to be provocative after being ordered to do so by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The banners carried a slogan that referred to a 16th-century naval battle with Japan.
IOC President Thomas Bach said political statements would not be allowed in the village.
In return, the South Koreans said the IOC had promised that the Japanese flag of the “rising sun” would be banned from Olympic venues. The flag, which shows a red sun emanating from 16 rays, is considered by many South Koreans and others in Asia to be a symbol of Japan’s wartime past.
daily / dj (AP, dpa)