[FOUNTAIN]Japan’s political evolution“I immediately recognized that the two brick-shaped bundles wrapped with newspapers were cash. I have delivered 500 million yen (5 billion won or $4.5 million) myself, so I can tell how much they were worth just by looking at them. One brick would be about 200 to 250 million yen, so the two would be at least 400 million yen,” former Niigata Prefecture assemblyman Kimura Yasuhiro wrote in his memoirs. The money dealing took place at the private residence of Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka in 1973.
Coming from the same hometown as Mr. Danaka, Mr. Kimura had connections with Korea as the vice president of the Japan-Korea Friendship Association in his prefecture. Owing to his Korea connections and close relationship with Mr. Danaka, Mr. Kimura had introduced Lee Byeong-hee, minister of state without portfolio, to Prime Minister Tanaka when Mr. Lee visited Japan as a secret envoy of President Park Chung Hee.
Mr. Lee had presented Mr. Tanaka with a “gift” from President Park. The purpose was to smooth over the strained Korea-Japan relations after the kidnapping of Kim Dae-jung by Korean agents in Japan. Mr. Tanaka received the present without hesitation. The dealing would have been hard to conceal if it had happened today, and the disclosure would have shaken the fundamentals of the regimes in both countries. But in the 1970s, Korea and Japan shared a lack of ethics when it came to political money.
Times are different. Nippon Keidanren, the Japan Business Federation, has proclaimed that donations to political parties would be based on the performance of each party. The federation has already decided on 10 policy categories with which it will judge the performance of each party. The results of evaluation will be distributed to its members early next year, so that they can reflect the ratings of each party in their donations. Keidanren stopped collecting and distributing political funds a decade ago. But when it realized that reform would be difficult, it came up with the idea of evaluating the parties to elevate the quality of Japanese politics.
Keidanren’s move triggered mixed reactions in Japan. In any case, the situation is very different from Korea. While Korean business concerns are all hooked up by the prosecution’s investigation, Japanese companies have political parties in their palms watching their every move. From where does this difference come?
by Nahm Yoon-ho
The writer is a deputy city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.