Lacking a Yoshimura
The author is the Tokyo bureau chief of the JoongAng Ilbo.
Hirofumi Yoshimura is the hottest politician in Japan. What made the 44-year-old Osaka governor a star was Covid-19. Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun asked readers which politician responded to Covid-19 the best, and 188 out of 401 respondents chose Yoshimura. 59 chose Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, and only 34 chose Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The governor has established his own, distinct brand after going a separate way from Abe. Abe failed to provide grounds for why schools around Japan were closing, why the state of emergency was declared and extended and why the Olympics was postponed by a year. He only said that the decisions were made upon “comprehensive review” and based on “political determinations.”
But Yoshimura was different. He said that it was irresponsible to force people to drive into a tunnel without an exit and instead proposed the “Osaka model.” His closures and the order to refrain from going out will be lifted in phases, when specific conditions are met for seven consecutive days. And he kept the promise.
At the young age of 44, reckless speech and good looks are Yoshimura’s weapons. The former attorney built a colorful resume in a short period of time, including experiences as an Osaka city council member, a member of the House of Representatives and Osaka’s mayor. As Yoshimura has become popular, his Japan Innovation Party is also getting the spotlight. It traditionally enjoys the image of “radical right party” based in Kansai region, but with the Yoshimura effect, it now has the highest rating among opposition parties in some polls. The Japan Innovation Party was founded by former Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, who said, “‘Comfort women’ existed everywhere in the world,” in reference to Korean women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese during World War II. The far-right party has said that Koreans resent working hard.
The candidate nomination process for the most far-right party in Korea for the general elections in April was pathetic. It should have nominated 10 Korean Yoshimuras to fight the ruling party as it rode the “Corona Tiger,” but the reality was different. I could find no new faces. The nomination process was a mud fight among political heavyweights.
Former campaign manager Kim Chong-in’s ideas for leadership failed to sound convincing. But restoration of the conservatives is far-fetched. If the opposition party fails to nurture someone who can exceed people’s expectations, there is no future for conservatives. They may have to listen to the boastful praises of the liberals mentioning “Taejong” and “Sejong” for several more decades.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 19, Page 28