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International relations

Japan considers reassigning diplomat in South Korea after gaffe

Senior envoy used explicit remark to criticize Moon

Hirohisa Soma, deputy chief of mission at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, visits South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Seoul on July 13.   © Yonhap/Kyodo

TOKYO -- The Japanese government is looking into reassigning an embassy official in Seoul in the near future after he used sexual imagery when commenting on South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Hirohisa Soma, deputy chief of mission at the Japanese Embassy, reportedly reportedly suggested to a journalist at a South Korean broadcaster that Moon was playing tug of war with himself over soured bilateral relations. The embassy condemned the remark on Saturday.

The transfer is expected to amount to a de facto removal from the post, which Soma has served in since July 2019.

"The time for regular transfers comes sooner or later," a senior Japanese government official said Monday.

Japan's ambassador to South Korea, Koichi Aiboshi, has reprimanded his deputy for making an "extremely inappropriate remark," the Japanese Embassy in Seoul said Saturday after the news broke.

Meanwhile, Moon has decided against a trip to Tokyo this week for the Olympics, as talks aimed at a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga have collapsed.

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