Dramas shared by Seoul and TokyoSEO SEUNG-WOOK
The author is a Tokyo correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in office for more than seven years is mired with one scandal after another. Since last year, he has been challenged by a scandal over the $500,000 cherry blossom viewing bash he threw for 800 supporters of parliamentary constituency. He bluntly refused to answer to a “meaningless question” when an opposition lawmakers pressed him to explain. He apologized and canceled the government annual celebration. But over 70 percent of the population is not satisfied with the prime minister’s explanation and demands a more thorough answer.
Abe came under fire again lately for “reinterpreting” the law to delay the statutory retirement of a senior prosecutor believed to be loyal to Abe. The cabinet bent the 1981 national public services law provision that relates to the granting of deferments in retirement ages for public servants under certain circumstances in order to keep Hiromu Kurokawa, chief of the Tokyo High Public Prosecutors Office, in office six months beyond his official retirement in February. The move is suspected to be aimed to make a loyalist a head of the prosecution.
Special advisor Hiroto Izumi has raised a social uproar for using tax money for his overseas trips with alleged lover Hiroko Otsubo, a deputy director general for the Health Ministry. Two former cabinet ministers who resigned from office after a month because of the charges of violating the election law collected two months of activity funds worth 2.58 million yen ($23,073), traffic expenses and a yearend bonus worth 3.23 million yen.
Japanese politics may look a total mess, but Korea’s also appear no better. The government has been unabashed in its double standards in its defense of former scandal-ridden Justice Minister Cho Kuk and a face-off with the prosecution.
While appointing Prosecutor-General Yoon Seok-youl seven months ago, President Moon Jae-in praised him for his motto to serve the law, not a certain person or power, and asked him to maintain his integrity. Moon demanded equal strictness on the “sitting power, whether it be the Blue House, government or ruling party.” But why the ruling power is so intent to push him for doing exactly what the president said — being equally strict with the sitting power — is baffling.
The sinking approval of Moon and Abe bodes badly for the bilateral relationship as they could seek external causes to divert the public attention from their own scandals. The Blue House again has floated the idea of ending the General Security of Military Information Agreement (Gsomia) with Japan. Let’s hope the leaders of the two counties don’t make a mistake at home.