Feeling dejected, prime minister?

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Feeling dejected, prime minister?

Ichiro Ozawa is a veteran politician who was once called the “shadow shogun.”

Now he is the leader of the People’s Life Party and Taro Yamamoto and Friends. There are reasons for the strange party title. In order for a political group to maintain its status, it needs at least five members in the Japanese Diet. But the party suffered a crushing defeat in the general election at the end of last year, and only four seats were won. So young independent councilor Taro Yamamoto joined on the condition that his name would be put into the party’s title. This is humiliating for someone who was known as a man only second to the prime minister with 420 lawmakers six years ago.

But Ozawa has gone through tougher times. He was the chairman of the Democratic Party before the generation election in August 2009. When opinion polls predicted a power change for the Democratic Party, Ozawa suddenly became a target of the Tokyo Prosecutors’ Office’s special investigation team in March. Just like the Sung Wan-jong scandal, a construction company was involved. He lost the prime minister post, which was almost guaranteed. After 16 trials over three years and eight months, he was acquitted. But the prosecutors and public opinion branded him a quasi-criminal, virtually ending his political career.

We need to focus on how he responded to the false accusations. While those around him advised that the allegations were not true and he should remain in his post, Ozawa immediately stepped down. In a news conference he said, “The suspicions of the people have crossed the line.”

“When it comes to the money issue, my conscience is free of any guilt. But what is more important to me is public opinion and the power change. With the public growing suspicious, I should not cling to the post. It is the destiny of the politicians. But I will win both the regime change and verify the truth through trials.”

I am not sure if his decision was right or wrong, but at least he had the dignity of a politician and leader.

Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo claims that he was wrongfully accused. He resents the curse of the deceased and the public criticism. Still, a prime minister should not say, “I will lay down my life if evidence is found.” Does he expect people to believe him after saying he was “not close” to Sung, with whom he spoke on the phone more than 210 times in a year? For lowering the dignity of the country and his position, Lee needs to be removed as soon as possible. If he continues to claim it is unfair, he needs to realize that the citizens feel a million times more wronged for having such a man as prime minister.

*The author is the Tokyo bureau chief of the JoongAng Ilbo. JoongAng Ilbo, April 21, Page 30


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