[Letters] Japan: Real change is slow

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[Letters] Japan: Real change is slow

The Aug. 30th election brought about the biggest change in Japan’s political history since World War II. The crushing victory by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) put an end to the 54-year monopoly of power of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). True, the new “king of the hill” is different from its predecessor in many ways. But are they different enough to refresh Japan? Here are some of the obstacles that I think will get in the way of the DPJ’s struggle for change.

First, we need to understand that the DPJ is also a conservative party, just like the LDP. Indeed, many of the policies and slogans were directed at change, and there is no doubt that there will be tons of reforms and renovations. Yet the controversy lies in the question of whether it will actually bring a tectonic shift in the worn-out societal structures that Japan had been holding for so long. For example, many skeptics point out the fact that issues concerning female employment, especially married women, will still be left unsolved.

Second, the efficacy of the reforms promised by the new ruling party is questionable. Many voters chose the DPJ not because they trusted and agreed with its policies, but rather because they were fed up with the LDP. They were clinging to a thread of hope that the new ruling majority would actually bring some changes - whatever those may be. Yet if the DPJ fails to address the people’s needs, or if their new policies turn out to be just as obnoxious as those of the LDP, then their support will dwindle.

Another concern is that the DPJ might have a hard time washing away the remnants of the LDP. For years, the LDP had been accused of corruption and fraud inside the nation, and was criticized for its ignorance and stubbornness towards neighboring countries, especially on matters of historical record. Even with the political turnover many are still skeptical about whether the DPJ actually has the will to rid the country’s politics of these bad habits. Even if they diohave the will, the party will face great resistance from conservatives loyal to the LDP. The fact that over 40 percent of the elected DPJ candidates are newcomers could also cause great turbulence in the process.

I’m not saying that this election wasn’t significant. There is no question that this outcome will act as a turning point in Japan. However we need to understand that even with its significance and growing attention around the world, the change won’t be as dynamic as one might have guessed. Rather, many could be left disappointed that what actually was a change just turned out to be another branch from the same tree. Hence what we need now is to observe the consequences and act objectively and calmly as possible. Remember that change comes more slowly than we expect.

Kang Dong-ha, sophomore at Korea University
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