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Junichiro Koizumi

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Junichiro Koizumi
Junichiro Koizumi

Junichiro Koizumi (小泉 純一郎 Koizumi Jun'ichirō, born January 8, 1942) is a Japanese politician and the 87th, and current, Prime Minister of Japan.

Contents

Personal life and education

He was born in Yokosuka City, on January 8, 1942, Kanagawa Prefecture to Junya Koizumi, a director general of the Defense Agency and a second-generation Diet member, and was educated at Yokosuka High School and Keio University, where he studied economics. He was at the London School of Economics and briefly University College London before returning to Japan in December 1969 on the death of his father.

Before becoming Prime Minister, he had married in 1978. The marriage ended in divorce in 1982 and he vowed never to marry again. He has three sons, two of whom live with him (Shinjiro Koizumi and Kotaro Koizumi) and have not met their mother since the divorce. The youngest, Yoshinaga Miyamoto, a student at Keio University, has never met his father and was turned away when he tried to meet him by attending his grandmother's funeral. Koizumi's grandfather was Matajiro Koizumi.

Political life

After an initial, failed attempt to get elected, Koizumi became a member of the Lower House for the 11th Kanagawa Prefecture in December 1972. He was a member of the Liberal Democratic Party, and joined the Fukuda faction. He has since been re-elected ten times. In 1992 he became Minister of Posts and Telecommunications under the government of Kiichi Miyazawa. He was three times Minister of Health and welfare under the government of Noboru Takeshita, Sosuke Uno and Ryutaro Hashimoto.

He gained his first senior post in 1979 as Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Finance and his first ministerial post in 1988 as Minister of Health and Welfare under Noboru Takeshita. He had cabinet posts again in 1992 and 1996-1998. In 1994, with the LDP in opposition, he became part of a new LDP faction, Shinseiki, made up of younger and more motivated parliamentarians.

He competed for the presidency of the LDP in September 1995 and July 1999, but he gained little support losing decisively to Ryutaro Hashimoto and then Keizo Obuchi. In April 2000 Obuchi was replaced by Yoshiro Mori after falling seriously ill. Koizumi became leader of his party on his third attempt on April 24, 2001. He had 298 votes, while his closest rival, Ryutaro Hashimoto gained 155 votes. Koizumi won because local chapters were allowed to vote in addition to Diet members. He was made Prime Minister on April 26, 2001. His coalition secured 78 of 121 seats in the Upper House elections in July.

Popularity

Initially Koizumi was an extremely popular leader, with his outspoken nature and colourful past. His nicknames included 'Lionheart' and 'maverick'. He pushed for new ways to revitalise the moribund economy, aiming to act against bad debts with commercial banks, privatise the postal savings system, and reorganise the factional structure of the LDP. He spoke of the need for a period of painful restructuring in order to improve the future. To these aims, he first appointed an economist and a commentator, Heizo Takenaka, to the job of reforming the banking sector. Under their reign, the bad debts of banks have been cut dramatically with the NPL ratio of major banks approaching half the level of 2001. The Japanese economy has been through a slow but steady recovery, and the stock market has dramatically rebounded. The GDP growth for 2004 is expected to be one of the highest among G7 nations according to the IMF and OECD. Takenaka was appointed as a Postal Reform Minister in 2004 and the privatization of the country's Postal Savings system is reaching a critical moment. All this has taken place despite the strong opposition to his reform plans among the "old guards" within LDP and the bureaucracy. He sacked his popular but volatile Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka in January 2002, replacing her with Yoriko Kawaguchi. He was reelected in 2003 and his popularity surged as the economy recovered. A recent proposal to cut pensions benefits for the fiscal reform, however, turned out to be wildly unpopular, just like similar changes in other economies of the world, and restricted his administration's approval rating in the upper house election in 2004 to being only marginally better than the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). Nevertheless, with no more election in sight during his tenure, Koizumi is positioned well to push through the remaining reforms to sustain Japan's economic recovery.

Controversy

Koizumi's liberal credentials with the rest of Asia were damaged by a controversial visit to the Yasukuni Shrine on August 13, 2001. His grandfather built an airfield in Kagoshima used for kamikaze missions, 1944-5, and a cousin died on such a mission, which partly explains his keenness to visit the Yasukuni shrine. (Another reason is a desire in the LDP to 'stand up to' China and North Korea, and a feeling that shrine visits are a domestic Japanese matter, a feeling not shared by some neighbouring countries.) Koizumi also approved the expansion of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) and in October 2001 they were given greater scope to operate outside of the country.

On January 1, 2004, Koizumi made a surprise New Year's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine. It was his fourth visit to the shrine since becoming Prime Minister. Because this shrine also honours Japanese war criminals, again, the visit drew strong condemnation and protests from Japan's neighbors, mainly the People's Republic of China, North and South Korea, and the Philippines, who still hold bitter memories of Japanese colonization. For these governments, the event held even greater significance than previous visits in light of the imminent dispatch of JSDF troops to Iraq.

List of Koizumi Cabinet members

Since Koizumi's appointment, he made a major change of cabinet member four times: September 2003, October 2003 and September 2004. The below is the list of 4th Koizumi Cabinet since September 27, 2004.

  • Minister for Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications - Taro Aso
  • Minister of Justice - Chieko Nohno
  • Minister of Foreign Affairs - Nobutaka Machimura
  • Minister of Finance - Sadakazu Tanigaki
  • Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology - Nariaki Nakayama
  • Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare - Hidehisa Otsuji
  • Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries - Yoshinobu Shimamura
  • Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry - Shoichi Nakagawa
  • Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport - Kazuo Kitagawa
  • Minister of the Environment, Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs -Yuriko Koike
  • Chief Cabinet Secretary, Minister of State for Gender Equality - Hiroyuki Hosoda
  • Chairman of the National Public Safety Commission, Minister of State for Disaster Management
  • Minister of State for National Emergency Legislation- Yoshitaka Murata
  • Minister of State for Defense - Yoshinori Ohno
  • Minister of State for Financial Services- Tatsuya Ito
  • Minister of State for Economic and Fiscal Policy, Minister of State for Privatization of the Postal Services- Heizo Takenaka
  • Minister of State for Regulatory Reform,Minister of State for Industrial Revitalization Corporation of Japan,Minister of State for Administrative Reform,Minister of State for Special Zones for Structural Reform,Minister of State for Regional Revitalization - Seiichiro Murakami
  • Minister of State for Science and Technology Policy,Minister of State for Food Safety,Minister of State for Information Technology - Yasufumi Tanahashi

Further Reading

  • Anderson, Gregory E., "Lionheart or Paper Tiger? A First-term Koizumi Retrospective," Asian Perspective (http://ifes.kyungnam.ac.kr/ifes/ifes/eng/publication/02_journal_ap.asp) 28:149-182 (March 2004).

External links

Preceded by:
Yoshiro Mori
Prime Minister of Japan
2001—
Succeeded by:
Incumbent
de:Junichiro Koizumi

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