Junichiro Koizumi

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Junichiro Koizumi
Image:Junichiro Koizumi G8 summit.jpg


87th, 88th and 89th
Prime Minister of Japan
In office
April 26, 2001 – September 26, 2006
Preceded by Yoshiro Mori
Succeeded by Shinzō Abe

Born January 8, 1942
Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan
Political party Liberal Democratic Party
Spouse None (divorced)
Religion Shinto

Junichiro Koizumi (小泉純一郎 Koizumi Jun'ichirō?, born January 8, 1942) is a Japanese politician who served as Prime Minister of Japan from 2001 to 2006.

Widely seen a maverick leader of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), he became known as an economic reformer, focusing on Japan's government debt and the privatization of its postal service. In 2005, Koizumi led the LDP to win one of the largest parliamentary majorities in modern Japanese history.

Koizumi also attracted international attention through his deployment of the Japan Self-Defense Forces to Iraq, and his visits to Yasukuni Shrine which led to diplomatic tensions with China and South Korea.


[edit] Early life

Koizumi is a third-generation politician. His father, Junya Koizumi, was director general of the Japan Defense Agency and a member of the Diet. His grandfather, Matajiro Koizumi, was Minister of Posts and Telecommunications under Prime Ministers Hamaguchi and Wakatsuki and an early advocate of postal privatization. See: Koizumi family.

Born in Yokosuka on 8 January, 1942, Koizumi was educated at Yokosuka High School and Keio University, where he studied economics. He attended University College London before returning to Japan in August 1969 upon the death of his father. He stood for election to the lower house in December; however, he did not earn enough votes to win election as a Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) representative. In 1970, he was hired as a secretary to Takeo Fukuda, who was Minister of Finance at the time and would go on to become Prime Minister in 1976.

In the general elections of December 1972, Koizumi was elected as a member of the Lower House for the 11th District of Kanagawa Prefecture. He joined Fukuda's faction within the LDP. Since then, he has been re-elected ten times.

[edit] Marriage and divorce

Koizumi married 21-year-old Keio student Kayoko Miyamoto in 1978, having proposed to her one day after their first date (which had been arranged by Koizumi's political aides). The ceremony at the Tokyo Prince Hotel was attended by about 2,500 people, including Fukuda (then Prime Minister), and featured a wedding cake shaped like the National Diet Building.<ref name=time>"Japan's Destroyer," TIME, 10 September 2001.</ref>

The marriage ended in divorce in 1982. Kayoko was unhappy with her lifestyle and Koizumi did not see Kayoko as a viable political wife.<ref name=time /> After this divorce, Koizumi vowed never to marry again, saying that divorce consumed ten times more energy than marriage.<ref>"[Koizumi's ex-wife ready to lend a hand, has 'nothing to lose']," Kyodo News, May 9 2001.</ref>

Two of his three sons (Kotaro Koizumi and Shinjiro Koizumi) were kept in Koizumi's custody and raised by one of Koizumi's sisters. Although Kayoko claims that she was to be allowed to see her two sons once they reach the age of 16, this did not happen and she has not been able to see them since the divorce. The youngest, Yoshinaga Miyamoto, a student at Keio University, was born following the divorce<ref name=washpost>"[For Japanese, a Typical Tale of Divorce]," Washington Post, May 19 2001.</ref> and has never met Koizumi. This third son is known to have attended one of Koizumi's rallies, but was also turned away when trying to meet his father by attending his grandmother's funeral.<ref>Japanese PM keeps lost son at bay," '"The Times, 4 September 2005.</ref> Such situations are relatively common in Japan, where joint custody is seen to be undesirable.<ref name=washpost />

[edit] Rise to power

Koizumi 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 Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita. He held cabinet posts again in 1992 (Minister of Posts and Telecommunications in the Miyazawa cabinet) and 1996–1998 (Minister of Health and Welfare in the Uno and Hashimoto cabinets).

In 1994, with the LDP in opposition, Koizumi became part of a new LDP faction, Shinseiki, made up of younger and more motivated parliamentarians led by Taku Yamasaki, Koichi Kato and Koizumi, a group popularly dubbed "YKK." 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, both of whom had broader bases of support within the party. However, after Yamasaki and Kato were humiliated in a disastrous attempt to force a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori in 2000, Koizumi became the last remaining credible member of the YKK trio, which gave him leverage over the reform-minded wing of the party.

On April 24, 2001, Koizumi was elected president of the LDP. He was initially considered an outside candidate against Hashimoto, who was running for his second term as Prime Minister. However, in the first poll of prefectural party organizations, Koizumi won 87 to 11 percent; in the second vote of Diet members, Koizumi won 51 to 40 percent. He defeated Hashimoto by a final tally of 298 to 155 votes.<ref name="anderson">Anderson, Gregory E., "Lionheart or Paper Tiger? A First-term Koizumi Retrospective," Asian Perspective 28:149–182, March 2004.</ref> He was made Prime Minister of Japan on April 26, and his coalition secured 78 of 121 seats in the Upper House elections in July.

[edit] Koizumi as Prime Minister

Image:Koizumi manifesto.png
LDP manifesto from the 2005 election, showcasing Koizumi's contention that "the privatization of Japan Post is the core of our reforms."

[edit] Domestic policy

Within Japan, Koizumi pushed for new ways to revitalise the moribund economy, aiming to act against bad debts with commercial banks, privatize 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.

In the fall of 2002, Koizumi appointed Keio University economist and frequent television commentator Heizo Takenaka as Minister of State for Financial Services and head of the Financial Services Agency (FSA) to fix the country's banking crisis. Bad debts of banks were dramatically cut 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 was one of the highest among G7 nations, according to the IMF and OECD. Takenaka was appointed as a Postal Reform Minister in 2004 for the privatization of Japan Post, operator of the country's Postal Savings system.

Koizumi moved the LDP away from its traditional rural agrarian base toward a more urban, neoliberal core, as Japan's population grew in major cities and declined in less populated areas. In addition to the privatization of Japan Post (which many rural residents fear will reduce their access to basic services such as banking), Koizumi also slowed down the LDP's heavy subsidies for infrastructure and industrial development in rural areas. These tensions made Koizumi a controversial but popular figure within his own party and among the Japanese electorate.

[edit] Foreign policy

Image:Koizumi with bush.jpg
Koizumi and U.S. President George W. Bush meet at the White House on September 25, 2001

[edit] Assertive Foreign Policy

Koizumi was popular among many Japanese for his assertive foreign policy stances, such as the deployment of Japan Self-Defense Forces to Iraq, an unrepentant stance towards China and South Korea over his Yasukuni shrine visits, the pursuit of pro-active negotiations with North Korea, and emphasizing Japan's claims against Russia over the Kuril Islands. Many Japanese commentators also praised his friendly relationship with United States President George W. Bush, even though the Japanese electorate was generally ambivalent towards relations with the U.S.[citation needed] The deployment of Japanese Self-Defence Forces in Iraq was intended as a demonstration of Japanese national confidence, rather than support of U.S. policy.<ref>"[1]"'「小泉政権5年総括」2006年4月調査(面接方式) : 調査項目 : 世論調査・支持率 : 特集 : YOMIURI ONLINE(読売新聞)'</ref> It was controversial due to its military nature which conflicted with Japan's pacifist tendency since the end of World War II. [citation needed]

However, in terms of voter appeal, Koizumi's assertive foreign policy is considerably less important to the Japanese electorate than his domestic restructuring and economic policy.[citation needed]

[edit] Self-Defense Forces Policy

Although Koizumi did not initially campaign on the issue of defense reform<ref name="anderson" />, he 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. Some of these troops were dispatched to Iraq, though only to carry out non-combat duties. Koizumi's government also introduced a bill to upgrade the Japan Defense Agency to ministry status, but this bill was not passed in the 2006 session and will be deferred to the next session under the watch of Koizumi's successor.<ref name="june06">"Diet closes for summer, puts lid on Koizumi legacy," Japan Times (registration required), June 17 2006.</ref>

Koizumi meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao in 2004

[edit] Visits to Yasukuni Shrine

Koizumi has often been noted for his controversial visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, starting on August 13, 2001. He visited the shrine six times as prime minister. Because the shrine honors many convicted Japanese war criminals, including 14 executed Class A war criminals, these visits drew strong condemnation and protests from Japan's neighbors, mainly the People's Republic of China and South Korea. These countries still hold bitter memories of Japanese invasion and occupation during the first half of the 20th century. As a result, China and South Korea refused to meet Koizumi in Japan and their countries, and there were no mutual visits between Chinese and Japanese leaders from October 2001, and between South Korean and Japanese leaders from June 2005. The standstill ended when the next prime minister Abe visited China and South Korea in October 2006.

In China, the visits led to massive anti-Japanese riots. The president, ruling and opposition parties, and much of the media of South Korea openly vituperated the visits regardless their political positions. <ref> "Lawmakers visit Japanese Embassy to protest Koizumi's planned Seoul trip," The Korea Herald, 12 October 2001.</ref> The speech that criticizes Japan is applauded by many Koreans despite the South Korean President's low popularity. When Koizumi was asked about the speech, Koizumi stated these are "for the domestic (audience)"(国内向けでしょ?).

Although Koizumi signed the shrine's visitor book as "Junichiro Koizumi, the Prime Minister of Japan", he claimed that his visits to the shrine were as a private citizen and not an endorsement of any political stance.<ref>"Koizumi not backing down on Yasukuni," The Japan Times (registration required), 26 January 2006.</ref> These claims were scoffed as ineffective excuses in China and Korea. Several journals and news reports in Japan, such as the one made by Kyodo News Agency on August 15 2006, questioned the validity of the claim that Koizumi was visiting as a private citizen, as he recorded his name on the shrine's guestbook as prime minister, and visited the shrine yearly as part of his campaign pledge, which was political in nature.

[edit] Statements on World War II

On August 15, 2005, the sixtieth anniversary of the end of World War II, Koizumi publicly stated that Japan was deeply saddened by the suffering it caused during World War II and vowed Japan would never again take "the path to war". [2] However, Koizumi was criticized for actions which allegedly ran contrary to this expression of remorse (e.g. the Yasukuni visits), which resulted in worsening relations with China and South Korea, and even the cancellation of important bilateral meetings in late 2005. His party also cancelled plans for the building of a neutral, non-militaristic shrine that might have stemmed criticism. In addition, Koizumi's attempts to make Japan play a more active military role abroad were seen by some critics as contradictory to his statement.[citation needed] Lastly, the government approval of a controversial history textbook which were seen to downplay Japanese war atrocities was also seen by some critics as contrary to Koizumi's statement.

[edit] Popularity

Image:Junichiro Koizumi.jpg
Koizumi meets children in Sea Island, Georgia, shortly before the 2004 G8 summit

Initially Koizumi was at certain points in his tenure an extremely popular leader, with his outspoken nature and colourful past. His nicknames included "Lionheart", due to his hair style and fierce spirit, and "Maverick".<ref name="anderson" /> In June 2001, he enjoyed an approval rating of 85 percent, with only 7 percent disapproving.<ref>Koizumi's popularity hits fresh peak, CNN.com, June 12 2001.</ref>

In January 2002, he sacked his popular but volatile Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka, replacing her with Yoriko Kawaguchi. By April, following an economic slump and a series of LDP scandals that claimed the career of YKK member Koichi Kato, Koizumi's popularity rating had fallen 40 percentage points since his nomination as prime minister.<ref>"Koizumi ally quits politics over scandal," BBC News, April 8 2002.</ref>

However, Koizumi was re-elected in 2003 and his popularity surged as the economy recovered. His proposal to cut pension benefits as a move to fiscal reform, however, turned out to be highly unpopular. This restricted his administration's approval rating in the House of Councilors elections in 2004 to being only marginally better than the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). In 2005, the House of Councilors rejected the contentious postal privatization bills. Koizumi previously made it clear that he would dissolve the lower house if the bill failed to pass. The Democratic Party, while expressing support for the privatization, made a tactical vote against the bill. Fifty-one LDP members also either voted against the bills or abstained.

Also, his visits to North Korea twice to solve the issue of abducting Japanese nationals somewhat raised his popularity, although not so big because he could not get enough many Japanese back to Japan.

On August 8, 2005, Koizumi, as promised, dissolved the House of Representatives and called for snap elections. He also expelled rebel LDP members for not supporting the bill. The LDP's chances for success were initially uncertain; the secretary general of New Komeito (a junior coalition partner with Koizumi's Liberal Democratic Party) said that his party would entertain forming a coalition government with the Democratic Party of Japan if the DPJ took a majority in the House of Representatives.<ref>"New Komeito exec signals willingness to jump LDP ship," The Japan Times (registration required), July 28 2005.</ref>

However, Koizumi's popularity rose almost twenty points after he dissolved the House and expelled rebel LDP members, with opinion polls placing the government's approval ratings between 51 and 59 percent. The electorate saw the election in term of vote for or against the reform (privatisation), which Democratic Party and rebel LDP were seen as being against.

The elections on September 11 were the LDP's largest victory in decades, giving the party a large majority in the House of Representatives and nullifying opposing voices in the House of Councilors. In the following Diet session, the last to be held under Koizumi's government, the LDP passed 82 of its 91 proposed bills, including postal privatization.<ref name="june06" />

[edit] Resignation

Koizumi announced that he would step down from office in 2006, per LDP rules, and would not personally choose a successor as many LDP prime ministers have in the past. On September 20, 2006, Shinzo Abe was elected to succeed Koizumi as president of the LDP, Abe succeeded Koizumi as prime minister September 26, 2006.

[edit] Personal

Image:Koizumi in Graceland 2006.jpg
Koizumi, hosted by US President George W. Bush, at Graceland in 2006

Koizumi is a fan of Richard Wagner, X Japan, and the Japanese pop band Morning Musume, and has released a CD of his favorite songs by Ennio Morricone.<ref>Watashi no daisuki na morrikone myujikku, ASIN B000ALJ04G. Amazon link</ref>.

Koizumi is also a noted fan of Elvis Presley, with whom he shares a birthday (January 8). In 2001 he released a collection of his favorite Elvis songs on CD with his comments about each song. His brother is Senior Advisor of the Tokyo Elvis Fan Club. Koizumi and his brother helped finance a statue of Elvis in Tokyo's Harajuku district. On June 30 2006, he visited the rock legend's former estate, Graceland, accompanied by U.S. President George W. Bush, and First Lady Laura Bush. After arriving in Memphis aboard Air Force One, they headed to Graceland. While there, Koizumi briefly sang a few bars of his favourite Elvis tunes, whilst warmly impersonating Presley, mimicking his characteristic hand movements and leg shakes, and wearing Presley's trademark oversized golden sunglasses.<ref>Singing Japan PM tours Graceland, BBC News, June 30 2006.</ref>

Koizumi also seems to be a fan of Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. He and Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen visited the Sibelius' home on 08 September. There Koizumi showed respect to the deceased composer with a moment of silence. He also owns reproductions of all seven symphonies by Sibelius.

[edit] Koizumi cabinets

(April 26, 2001)
First, Realigned
(September 30, 2002)
(November 19, 2003)
Second, Realigned
(September 22, 2004)
Third, Realigned
Secretary Yasuo Fukuda 4 Hiroyuki Hosoda Shinzo Abe
Internal Affairs Toranosuke Katayama Taro Aso Heizo Takenaka 3
Justice Mayumi Moriyama Daizo Nozawa Chieko Nohno Seiken Sugiura
Foreign Affairs Makiko Tanaka 1 Yoriko Kawaguchi Nobutaka Machimura Taro Aso
Finance Masajuro Shiokawa Sadakazu Tanigaki
Education Atsuko Toyama Takeo Kawamura Nariaki Nakayama Kenji Kosaka
Health Chikara Sakaguchi Hidehisa Otsuji Jiro Kawasaki
Agriculture Tsutomu Takebe Tadamori Oshima 2 Yoshiyuki Kamei Yoshinobu Shimamura Shoichi Nakagawa
Economy Takeo Hiranuma Shoichi Nakagawa Toshihiro Nikai
Land Chikage Ogi Nobuteru Ishihara Kazuo Kitagawa
Environment Hiroshi Oki 1 Shunichi Suzuki Yuriko Koike
Public Safety Jin Murai Sadakazu Tanigaki Kiyoko Ono Yoshitaka Murata Tetsuo Kutsukake
Disaster Prevention Yoshitada Konoike Kiichi Inoue
Defense Gen Nakatani Shigeru Ishiba Yoshinori Ono Fukushiro Nukaga
Economic Policy Heizo Takenaka 3 Heizo Takenaka Heizo Takenaka Kaoru Yosano
Financial Affairs Hakuo Yanagisawa Tatsuya Ito
Admin. and Reg. Reform Nobuteru Ishihara Kazuyoshi Kaneko Seiichiro Murakami Koki Chuma
Technology Koji Omi Hiroyuki Hosoda Toshimitsu Motegi Yasufumi Tanahashi Iwao Matsuda
Youth and Gender Kuniko Inoguchi


  1. Makiko Tanaka was fired on January 29, 2002. Koizumi served as interim foreign minister until February 1, when he appointed then-environment minister Yoriko Kawaguchi to the post. Koizumi appointed Hiroshi Oki to replace Kawaguchi.
  2. Oshima resigned on March 31, 2003 due to a farm-subsidy scandal. He was replaced by Kamei, who was kept in the next reshuffle.
  3. Takenaka has also held the portfolio of Minister of State for Postal Privatization since the first Koizumi cabinet. He is the only person to serve on Koizumi's cabinet through all five reshuffles.
  4. Fukuda resigned on May 7, 2004 and was replaced by Hosoda.

[edit] References


[edit] See also

  • Richard Lloyd Parry, "Enigma behind Koizumi's winning smile", Times supplement to the Daily Yomiuri, Sunday, September 18 2005, p.15

[edit] External links

Preceded by:
Yoshiro Mori
Prime Minister of Japan
Succeeded by:
Shinzō Abe
Preceded by:
Makiko Tanaka
Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan
Succeeded by:
Yoriko Kawaguchi
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Junichiro Koizumi

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