Stars of the Japanese rightA big draw for the Japanese media these days is “Koizumi Jr.” Shinjiro Koizumi, 31, is the second son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. He has inherited his father’s district and was successfully re-elected as a member of parliament last year. His straight and concise style of speaking resembles his father’s. His sophisticated looks also help his competitiveness. He is now the chief of the Youth Department at the ruling Liberal Democratic Party - a key post that has traditionally been held by future prime ministers. On top of his father’s allure, he’s charismatic and eloquent, and the aggressive media can’t get enough of him.
When more than 80 representatives registered with the Youth Department in January, the media reported that Shinjiro’s faction had become the biggest in the Liberal Democratic Party. When the turnout for a meeting in February wasn’t very good, media reported that other factions were trying to check Shinjiro’s growing power. But Shinjiro toured the site of the nuclear disaster, and reporters covered him from the bus. The photos of him holding hands with the locals moved readers.
At an interpellation session, he pressured Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to make a decision to participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and broadcasters used graphs and charts to analyze Shinjiro’s questions.
For Koreans, this is all worrisome, as Koizumi Jr. has shown rightist tendencies, frequently visiting the Yasukuni Shrine and attending Takeshima Day events. However, the Japanese media is eager to make the young politician a star.
Until last fall, the biggest newsmaker in Japan was Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto. As if he were the savior who could lift Japan from its two lost decades, the entire nation went crazy over him. While his upturn has slowed, Hashimoto is still a maverick politician with loyal supporters.
Right-winger Shinzo Abe is the incumbent prime minister, and 81-year-old Shintaro Ishihara of the Japan Restoration Party is still popular among older fans despite his ludicrous remarks.
While all four are ultra-rightist regardless of their age, they are superstars in Japanese politics.
In contrast, Japan’s Democratic Party is relatively progressive but struggles to get media exposure. But it can’t blame the country’s winner-takes-all culture and lopsided media entirely. Secretary General Goshi Hosono and Seiji Maehara are reluctant to take the helm of the DP after its loss in the general election. In the end, Banri Kaieada, a characterless politician who lost his own seat, became the party president. No matter how great and ethical their policy direction may be, the Democratic Party can’t compete with stars who can attract the ears and eyes of the citizens.
Korea’s opposition party can sympathize with Japan’s DP, having lost two consecutive presidential elections with no clear way forward in sight.
*The author is a Tokyo correspondent for the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Seo Seung-wook