Time for reconciliationJapan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito Party won a landslide victory in the Lower House election. The parties grabbed a combined 325 seats - way over two-thirds of the total number of seats - with the LDP taking 290 and the NKP 35. The opposition Democratic Party and Communist Party had a crushing defeat, although they did grab more seats than before. Political experts have said the LDP’s dominance will continue for a while, hinting at the possibility of prolonged conservative politics in Japan.
Once re-elected as prime minister, Shinzo Abe will launch his new cabinet with the same members, according to Japanese media, as he dissolved the Lower House only four months after a reshuffle. Abe will most likely stay in power for a long time.
Thanks to the renewed confidence, Abe is expected to accelerate Japan’s departure from the post-war system. He will come up with follow-up measures for his cabinet’s decision to exercise a right to collective self-defense through a reinterpretation of the Constitution. It is apparent that he will open the way for the Self-Defense Forces to engage in battles overseas. After the election victory on Sunday, he underscored the need for constitutional revision, a “historical mission” for him. But it remains to be seen if he will really succeed given the requirement of more than two-thirds of the votes in both houses and a national referendum, as well as the negative attitude of the LDP’s coalition partner, the New Komeito Party. Whatever the case, Prime Minster Abe will surely press ahead with his Abenomics for a recovery in the lackluster economy.
He also will keep his revisionist perspective on history, as evidenced by persistent attempts to deny the forced mobilization of sex slaves during World War II. The LDP stressed it will act to “revive Japan’s honor and national interests by aggressively countering groundless criticisms based on wrong facts.” Such hard-line positions could be reflected in the government’s authorization of history text books next March or in a statement to commemorate the end of the war on Aug. 15.
Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Korea and Japan. Abe might resciend the statements by his predecessors Yohei Kono and Tomiichi Murayama, which apologized for the forced recruitment of “comfort women” and Japan’s colonial rule of Korea. We hope Abe extends his hands for reconciliation and cooperation. Our government also needs to be more flexible in its approach to Japan to put the ties back on track.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 16, Page 34