[Viewpoint]New hopes for new relationsFive months ago, I said the cause of the problems in the Shinzo Abe administration boiled down to four things.
First, the administration misunderstood what the people really wanted. They wanted the government to solve problems that related directly to their daily lives, such as the pension shortfall and the growing income gap. Instead, the Abe administration only focused on grand ideological issues, such as revising the Constitution and patriotism education. Second, it focused too much on differentiating itself from the Junichiro Koizumi administration. Third, the Abe administration tried to cover up the corruption scandals involving close aides to the prime minister. Finally, the administration gave people the impression that the prime minister was a fragile boy born to wealth by stressing over and over that he was from a prominent political family.
Two months after the House of Councilors election, Abe stepped down. His untimely resignation drew criticism worldwide. If he was going to leave, he should have done so right after the election. Instead, he kept on making excuses that made no sense. Then he suddenly resigned without explaining why.
Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda took his place, but Abe was not willing to reflect on the situation. In the meantime, the Sankei Shimbun newspaper published an interview with Abe on Tuesday. Abe wrote the answers to the questions, and his replies were closer to retorts than self-reflection.
First, he listed his accomplishments during his term of office. In foreign relations, where all he did was bicker with neighboring countries, he said, “I am proud to say that Japan moved, for the first time in its history, a step closer to ‘opinionated diplomacy’ with a national strategy.” Here and there in the story, he expressed his regrets about being treated unfairly. He seemed to be saying he hadn’t done anything wrong.
He added, “I thought about politics while I was taking a rest. The reason why the Liberal Democratic Party was able to maintain power for 50 years is because it carefully followed its ideological guidelines. I know people call me an ‘ideology-first type’ politician. If we give up on our mission of revising the Constitution, which has been delayed until now, however, the LDP will no longer be the LDP. I am planning to resume political activities gradually next year, and I think my mission from now on will be to further expand the conservative power base, which is gradually being consolidated.”
My mission? Carefully following ideological guidelines? Doesn’t he understand that those are the reasons why the Japanese people said “no” to such nonsense and gave a crushing defeat to the Abe administration in the election for the House of Councilors? He isn’t willing to accept the truth.
It might be hard for a leader to reflect on his mistakes. However, it is the most important thing a leader can do. That is because new history is born out of reflection about mistakes. However, Abe refuses to do that. There is another reason why I am paying attention to the interview story. That has been a move among members of Japan’s right wing to form a united front again.
The core conservative politicians, who have maintained a low profile since the launch of the Fukuda administration, which pursues balanced diplomacy, are making unusual movements.
The “ANA” line ― named after the initials of former Prime Minister Abe; Shoichi Nakagawa; chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Policy Research Council and former Foreign Minister Aso Daro ― is emerging. The launching of the “HANA club,” which includes Takeo Hiranuma, an unaffiliated politician who supports visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, is also unusual.
The core conservatives, who are sensing the gradual weakening of the Fukuda administration, have started to launch counterattacks. The retorts from former Prime Minister Abe are a part of that.
With the election of Lee Myung-bak, there is a growing hope that Korea-Japan relations will improve. That is because we are now free from the worst combinations ― “Koizumi-Roh Moo-hyun” and “Abe-Roh Moo-hyun.”
In the pursuit of new Korea-Japan relations, the new administration should pay attention to the move by the Japanese conservatives. The best policy for both countries would be to make big strides toward recovering relations.
*The writer is the Tokyo correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Hyun-ki