[FOUNTAIN]Koizumi’s character willful and eccentricJapanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is known as “The Henjin.” This word means a weird or abnormal person.
Despite the fact he was elected as a member of the Diet ten times, his career was not that significant. He has never served as secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan. He was never minister of foreign affairs or minister of finance but served in sinecure positions as minister of health and welfare and minister of posts and telecommunications. He refused to accept a 25-year service award which is one of the most honorable awards given to a politician.
Everyone who is part of Japanese politics knows of a pressure group organized by former postmasters. This group has over 240,000 members and is a favorable voting constituency for the LDP. Mr. Koizumi dared to cut ties with this group, saying, “One hundred million Japanese citizens are far more important than 260,000 employees of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications.” This man is the Prime Minister of Japan.
It is also well-known that to be powerful in Japanese politics you must be part of a faction and make frequent visits to high class bars. However, Mr. Koizumi would rather read books or go on a trip to Europe. Mr. Koizumi has lived alone for 23 years since his divorce so cooks for himself. He speaks slowly and his speeches never exceed 5 minutes in length. The reason he nominated women candidates for the election as beautiful “assassins” was simple. He said, “Nothing is more powerful than the tears of a beautiful woman.”
Although he is alienated from other politicians because of his eccentricities, to the people he is the only hope of overturning old political establishment. His popularity comes from this. When he campaigns even middle and high school students, who cannot vote, come and photograph him. The first floor of the LDP office in Tokyo has a section displaying Koizumi products. A cellular phone accessory with a Koizumi doll and a t-shirt featuring his face are the most popular items.
The raging Koizumi wind has swept the islands of Japan. He has assented to being the first “presidential-style” prime minister in Japanese history. However, neighboring countries feel uneasy. In 1991, when U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle spoke of the expense of troops staying in Japan, Mr. Koizumi said, “Leave if you wish to.” His idea was that only after U.S. troops left would Japan care about defending itself.
Mr. Koizumi seldom consults others and enjoys making unusual decisions. To put it in better terms, he has the characteristics of a high-stakes gambler, but could also be seen as a willful man, who now has wings.
by Lee Chul-ho
The writer is a JoongAng Ilbo editorial writer.