Japan scraps plans to build a new embassy in S.Korea

Timothy Hale, April 10, 2019, 9:29 a.m.

The Japanese government has scrapped plans it has been pursuing since 2013 to build a new embassy in Korea.

Tokyo wanted to replace an old building dating from 1976 in Jongno, Seoul that has already been demolished with a new six-story structure.

But the Jongno District Office last month canceled the building permit it issued to the embassy in 2015. A district official said, "The Japanese Embassy agreed to the cancellation in a meeting in late February, saying it did not get the green light from its government."

By law, construction must start within a year of the building permit being issued, but delays are accepted if a valid reason is given. The district office sent several letters to the Japanese Embassy last year reminding it to start construction or risk cancellation of the permit, and asked it to give reasons for the delay. But there was no response until the embassy gave up on the plans.

The Japanese government owns the 2,382 sq.m plot and can seek another building permit, but that will take at least another year, and until then the site remains empty. In the meantime the embassy has moved into an office high-riser nearby.

The cancellation reflects the dire state of bilateral relations, and a row over a statue honoring wartime sex slaves for the Japanese Imperial Army in front of the old embassy remains unresolved.

Asked for a comment, the Japanese Foreign Ministry only said, "We will review and adjust our plans for the new embassy considering various circumstances."

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