[FOUNTAIN]Too much political nepotismThe world’s only reed museum can be found on the shores of Nishinoko Lake in Shiga Prefecture, Japan. The museum is housed in a renovated warehouse of a farm, and there is no entrance fee. The museum boasts some 5,000 articles collected from all over the world, from Africa to South America. Along with ancient documents written on paper made of reeds and Van Gogh’s study drawn with a reed pen, a piece of Joseon-period pottery with a reed pattern is on display at the museum.
Former professor Yoshihiro Yoshikawa, who graduated from the prestigious University of Tokyo’s medical school, established the museum in his family’s house in his hometown in 2001 out of pride and a sense of duty for the family business that has succeeded for 17 generations over 400 years. The Nishikawa store has been run by the family, making roof material for wooden buildings and summer screens with reeds growing by the lake.
In traditional arts such as kabuki and sumo wrestling, it has been institutionalized that the master turns over not only the skills but also the name to his successor.
Joseon-period potter Sim Su-gwan was abducted during the Japanese invasion in 1592, and his descendants in the 15th generation still use the same name, Chin Jukan in Japanese.
When there is no proper heir among the children, the master would adopt a child and have him inherit the name. The Japanese have a completely different mindset from the Koreans, who think that they will not let their own children do a hard job.
Politics is also a profession that is inherited over generations in Japan. Since the 1990s, many prime ministers are from families of politicians, from the new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Ryutaro Hashimoto to Keizo Obuchi to Junichiro Koizumi. Among 292 Liberal Democrat members of the House of Representatives, 38 percent inherited the seat, the district and supporter group from their fathers.
In the 2003 election, 45 percent of the elected representatives were from families of politicians. This is because the tradition of legacy has extended to the politics.
However, when politics turn into a monopolized business of certain families, the participatory democracy loses its footing.
As the talent pool becomes limited, politics are confined to a closed circuit. That’s why the legacy of politics is not beautiful, unlike the succession of business and arts.
Asahi Shimbun criticized it in an editorial titled, “Legacy: Politics is not traditional arts,” during the 2003 Diet election.
by Yeh Young-june
The writer is a Tokyo correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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