[FOUNTAIN]Media mogul’s change of mind?In the late 19th century, Japan’s Meiji government disliked any news going public. Censorship was strict and sometimes newspapers were even forced to close down because of a misprint found after publication. The Yomiuri Shimbun narrowly avoided such a fate ―on May 24, 1898 an editorial meant to say “Wise and Almighty Emperor of Russia,” but mistakenly wrote “Unwise and Incapable Emperor of Russia.” The Yomiuri saved itself by immediately issuing an extra, becoming the first newspaper to issue a special edition to corrrect a typo.
Yomiuri means “to sell while reading.” In early 17th century Japan, all newspapers were called Yomiuri, named for the rickshaw pullers who sold the papers while reading them. From its beginning, the Yomiuri Shimbun has claimed to be the people’s newspaper, using slang and everyday language. This strategy has been a success, and today the Yomiuri Shimbun sells 14 million copies a day, the best selling newspaper in the world.
The Yasukuni Shrine, which means “shrine for the security of the country,” performs a religious service for 2.5 million war dead, including Japanese class-A war criminals and the Korean and Taiwanese draftees the Japanese mobilized for war. The shrine gathers the criminals and their victims at the same place and praises them as heroes. It is an unbelievable sight for the victims’ families. This has caused much conflict between Japan and its neigbors. The shrine has not helped the peace of the country but rather caused more problems. Although the Yomiuri Shimbun is not extremely conservative, it is a leading conservative paper in Japan and has dealt with the Yasukuni Shrine issue in traditional Japanese style: It always supported the visits of government officials in the past. It maintained that position when Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited the shrine for the first time in August 2001. Its editorial the next day said, “It is obvious for any country’s leader to mourn the people who devoted their lives to the country.”
Recently, Yomiuri Shimbun caused a major stir when Tsuneo Watanabe, its owner and editor-in-chief, criticized publicly the prime minister’s visits to the shrine. He called the prime minister an “ignorant and incapable” person who doesn’t know history and is uncultured. It publishes a year-long special series on the Pacific War and boastes that the series could “change Japan.” It is not clear whether the Yomiuri Shimbun has been reborn or whether Mr. Watanabe has changed his mind. We hope he has, and that there will be no correction for using the term “ignorant and incapable.”
by Yi Jung-jae
The writer is a deputy business news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.