Japan’s Upper House has approved a resolution that will serve punishment for wrestler-turned-lawmaker Antonio Inoki for his recent trip to Pyongyang which was done without the express approval of the Diet. This is the first such disciplinary action that the House of Councillors will impose in more than 60 years.
They will also be forming a disciplinary panel to determine the details of his punishment after his visit to the reclusive state, which both the ruling and opposition blocks called a breach of the rules of the house. House members are required to obtain permission for overseas trips while the legislature is in session. In particular, visits to North Korea are frowned upon, given the lack of diplomatic relations between the two countries over the nuclear weapons issue and even more so, the abduction of Japanese nationals in the 70s and 80s.
Lawmakers need to obtain permission to visit the country, something that they denied Inoki when he applied for a permit because they found his reasons “unclear.” He still continued with his six-day visit, where he reportedly met with Jang Song Thaek, the uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, Kim Yong Il, the director of the International Department of the Workers’ Party of Korea, and several other top aides and senior officials. But the main purpose of his visit was to launch open an office inPyongyang for his nonprofit organization that focuses on sports exchanges with other countries. This was also his 27th visit to Japan’s East Asian neighbour.
Opposition Japan Restoration Party, of which Inoki is a member, has suspended his membership for 50 days because of the unauthorized trip but voted against the Diet’s disciplinary motion against him. The worst punishment the disciplinary panel might give Inoki is annulling his Diet membership. Once they’ve decided on the punishment, it will again be put to a vote by the chamber. Inoki told reporters after the session that he will accept the decision “seriously.”