[FOUNTAIN]Of Fathers and Daughters

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[FOUNTAIN]Of Fathers and Daughters

"As you know, I am uneducated. But all of you have the greatest of minds. I would like you to do your best. I will take the responsibilities on what you do."

That is what the primary-school-educated Kakuei Tanaka said in 1962 to the elite officials of the powerful Japanese Ministry of Finance, as he, at age 44, took the post as its minister. He was humble in his speech, but Mr. Tanaka, true to his nickname "the computerized bulldozer," would soon be in control of the bureaucracy and, in 10 years, would rise to the post of prime minister.

"There are three types of people in the world: family, employees and enemies. I expect all my employees to pledge their allegiance to me." That was what another Tanaka, the daughter of the former prime minister, said as she became foreign minister in April to the officials at the ministry. Makiko Tanaka's speech contrasts with her father's. Where he was humble, she was brutal and direct.

But perhaps it was necessary for her. Officials are known to test their new leaders. "They hide the unpleasant from you, but then they put you on a schedule so tight and hectic."

And it must have been difficult walking into the ministry to looks of contempt, to whispers of "This new one probably can't even remember her lines." Now they find themselves working like slaves under Makiko Tanaka who treats them as just that.

The Japanese people have shown more than 80 percent support for Ms. Tanaka. Opposition lawmakers who dare to make a comment critical of her have found their offices swamped with angry phone calls.

A popular observation goes that Ms. Tanaka's straightforward ways are a trait gained from her father. Others have gone on to point out the similarity between Ms. Tanaka and Representative Park Geun-hye. Both are daughters of former heads of state, and both entered politics on the glory of their fathers. Ms. Park served at her father's side for years following the death of her mother. Ms. Tanaka played a similar role for her father for two years in place of her ailing mother. "She looks just like her mother, but she takes after her father in character," is a common observation about Ms. Park.

While Ms. Tanaka has come onto center stage as a politician, Ms. Park has not had the opportunity for proper political evaluation. To paraphrase a favorite saying of hers, which goes, "A ship is not built to be anchored in a port," in the case of Ms. Park, the ship may have just left port. Ms. Tanaka has chosen to go against her father's grain - replacing his accommodating manner with her severe demeanor - and is succeeding. That may be a lesson for Ms. Park.

The writer is deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Noh Jae-hyun

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