Who Was Shinzo Abe?
And everything you need to know about his Assassination.
Ok, so the world of Politics is crazy right now. Boris Johnson has resigned as the UK president, Russia is continuing attacks in Ukraine, and Sri Lanka might be facing a humanitarian crisis; things are hectic. However, the one thing that has really stood out to me has been the assassination of Japan's former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
So who is this man? and why is he important?
Shinzo Abe was Japan's longest-running Prime Minister and the President of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) from 2006-2007 and again from 2012-2020. He resigned twice, once in 2014 and later in August 2020, mainly because he has ulcerative colitis.
Abe was also the grandson of Nobusuke Kishi. Kishi was also Prime Minister from 1957-1960 and he's famous for co-signing the declaration of war against the United States on December 7, 1941. So Abe has always been a part of the political environment.
Really early in his political career, Abe was the chief negotiator for the Japanese government on behalf of the families of Japanese abductees taken to North Korea. He actually accompanied his part leader (Koizumi) to meet Kim Jong‑il (Kim Jong-un's dad) in 2002 and insisted that Japanese abductees visiting Japan remain in the country, in defiance of North Korean rules.
Koizumi was later the one who appointed him as Chief Cabinet Secretary in September 2005, and Abe replaced him as prime minister and LDP president a year later making him the nation's youngest post-war prime minister, and the first to have been born after World War II.
His First Resignation
When he stepped down as PM for the first time, Abe's party lost the majority and governmental control in 52 years and the Agricultural minister (Norihiko Akagi) was involved in a political funding scandal which later led to his own resignation. So there was a lot of exterior drama going on.
Abe also was a part of the Japanese succession controversy, when he himself denied the chance of a female Japanese monarch. July 2007 was a pretty hectic year for his party and the LDP lost a lot of popularity. To try and combat this Abe announced a new cabinet in late August, only for the newly appointed agricultural minister, (Takehiko Endo) to be involved in a finance scandal, which led to him resigning a week later.
On 12 September 2007, Abe announced that he was resigning as prime minister, and his party mentions his poor health condition. On the 26th of September, Abe officially ended his term and is replaced by Yasuo Fukuda.
Fukuda starts the cycle of Prime Ministers who each fail to retain office for more than sixteen months.
Abe's Political Comeback
Once he'd recovered from his illness, Abe defeated his co-party member (Shigeru Ishiba) and became the LDP president for the second time in September 2012. He was later (24 December 2014) re-elected as Prime Minister by the House of Representatives, becoming the first PM to return to office since 1948.
One of the first things he introduced, as the LDP president, was his agenda to create a "society in which all women can shine" and sets the target that 30% of leadership positions are to be held by women by 2020 - Abe starts challenging the low participation by women in the workforce, fertility rate and declining population figures.
And get this: he calls this "womenomics"
The Abe cabinet has introduced measures to expand childcare and legislation to force public and private organizations to publish data on the number of women they employ, and what positions they hold - #WeLoveAGoodFeminist
Abe and Controversy
More controversially, Abe changed Japan's stance on passiveness, telling officials from the ASEAN countries (the United States and Australia) that Japan wanted to play a major role in maintaining regional security and offered Japan's support to other countries in resolving territorial disputes.
This kind of pissed its neighbouring countries off, however. This was also not helped when he visited the Yasukuni Shrine (Pictured Below):
The shrine contains the Book of Souls, which are named war criminals convicted of war crimes in World War II.
China, South Korea and North Korea have called the Yasukuni Shrine an example of the nationalist, revisionist and unapologetic approach Japan has taken towards its conduct during World War II.
China's Foreign Minister described the visit as moving Japan in an "extremely dangerous" direction and also criticised Abe's defence reform policies, warning that Japan should not abandon its post-war policy of pacifism
In response, Abe instead planned a five-year plan of military expansion or "proactive pacificism" - the goal of making Japan a more "normal" country, able to defend itself. In July 2014 the Abe cabinet re-interpreted Japan's constitution to allow for the right of "Collective Self-Defense", allowing the country's Self Defense Forces to help and defend, an ally under attack.
Restoring Asian alliances
In Seoul in November 2015, Abe attended the first China–Japan–South Korea trilateral summit in November 2015. The summit had previously been suspended in 2012 due to tensions over historical and territorial issues. The leaders at the event agreed to restore the summits as annual events, negotiate a trilateral free trade agreement and work to check North Korea's nuclear weapons programme. At the end of the summit, it was announced that the relationships across the three powers had been "completely restored".
In the same month, Abe also agreed to resolve the issue of so-called "Comfort women".
Abe previously has denied denying the role of government coercion in the recruitment of comfort women during World War II - "comfort women" being young women and girls forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army in occupied countries and territories before and during World War II
To sort out the issue, Japan agreed to pay 1 billion yen into a fund to support the 46 surviving victims, and issued a statement that contained Abe's "most sincere apologies and remorse".
The South Korean government stated to find the matter "finally and irreversibly resolved" and both sides agreed to avoid criticizing each other over the issue in the future.
The Peace and Security Preservation Legislation
The Abe cabinet also introduced 11 bills to the Diet in May 2015, which pushed for a limited expansion of military powers to fight in a foreign conflict, allowing Japan's forces to come to help allied nations under attack and expand Japan's capabilities to support international peacekeeping operations. This practically allowed Japan to take on a greater share of security responsibilities as part of the US-Japan Alliance. Scholars (some of whom had been invited by the ruling parties) and a former Supreme Court justice argued that the legislation was unconstitutional.
This, however, did come with public backlash: opinion polls showed negative approval ratings (for the first time since he returned to power in 2012). And, many protested against “war bills” outside the Diet building and atomic bomb survivor Sumiteru Taniguchi publicly stated that the defence reforms would take Japan "back to the wartime period".
Abe did issue a statement, however, saying that the new laws "will fortify our pledge to never again wage war," and that the legislation, rather than being "war bills", was instead "aimed at deterring war and contributing to peace and security."
When Abe was re-elected as president of the LDP in September 2015, he announced the next stage of his administration to tackle the issues of low fertility, an ageing population, boost Japan's GDP and raise the national fertility rates. Abe explained that the government would take measures to increase wages, boost consumption, and expand childcare, social security and care services for the elderly to meet these goals. This plan was called "Abenomics"
In March 2018, it came out that the finance ministry had falsified parliament-presented documents (in relation to the Moritomo Gakuen scandal) to avoid implicating Abe. The scandal looked like it could cost Abe his party leadership.
In July 2018 and later in 2020 Abe's popularity was further hit. First, he held a drinking party with LDP lawmakers during the peak of the floods in western Japan and later, he extended the term of top Tokyo prosecutor Hiromu Kurokawa. (Kurokawa later resigned amid a gambling scandal)
In 2019, Abe's government initiated a trade war with South Korea, after South Korea’s Supreme Court stated that reparations should be made to Japanese companies that had benefited from forced labour.
In August 2020, Abe announced his second resignation as prime minister, citing a significant resurgence of his health condition and was succeeded by Yoshihide Suga.
So why is his assassination so shocking?
On 8 July 2022, Abe was shot twice and killed. He is the first G7 leader to be assassinated since Italy's Aldo Moroin in 1978. (G7 Countries: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom, United States)
If you didn't know, Japan has super strict gun laws. Unless you are police or military, you cannot buy a gun. Even getting a starting pistol for races is insanely tedious. But, on 8 July 2022, Abe was shot twice while delivering a campaign speech in Nara.
He was supporting his fellow LDP party member Kei Satō for the House of Councillors election, the Upper House of Parliament; both the upper and lower house combine to make the Japanese Parliamentary system known as the Diet.
The assassin used a homemade firearm which fired two shots, the first striking Abe in the neck and the second striking him fatally in the heart.
A 41-year-old man named Tetsuya Yamagami, a former Japan Maritime Self-Defense Forcesailor who served for three years from 2002 to 2005 was arrested on site following the shooting. He later confessed to local police saying that he resented the fact that his mother was brainwashed by the religious group, the Unification Church (a new religious movement founded in South Korea) and went bankrupt. He also stated that he killed Abe because he believed he was the one who spread the religion to Japan.
Abe's death is utterly shocking not only due to the relationship Japan has with public violence but also due to Abe's long and prominent political career. Without a doubt, Shinzo Abe has been one of the most, if not the most, influential political figures Japan has seen - particularly since the Second World War. His influence helped move Japan into the modern power we all know today. However, his death, although tragic, is also being celebrated in certain parts of China and South Korea, highlighting his influence and importance.
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