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Influential political families

Posted December. 24, 2012 08:43,   


The new leaders of South Korea, China and Japan are descendants of famous political families. In South Korea, President-elect Park Geun-hye is the first daughter of former President Park Chung-hee. Japan’s next leader Shinzo Abe, chairman of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, is the grandson of former Prime Minister Kishi Nobusuke. Chinese President Xi Jinping is the son of communist veteran Xi Zhongxun.

The three families came into contact with each other when the Korean Peninsula was undergoing drastic change. Kang Sang-jung, a professor at the University of Tokyo, talked about in his book the unique relations between Nobusuke and Park Chung-hee based on their interest in Manchukuo. The two took the lead in the normalization of diplomatic relations between both countries in 1965. Park Chung-hee also held four meetings with Xi Zhongxun in Seoul and Beijing while Xi was suffering under China`s Cultural Revolution.

Hereditary politics are criticized as proof of the backwardness of a country’s political system. If a descendant of a political family takes office regardless of the people`s will just like in North Korea, it would be rightly considered hereditary dictatorship. If hereditary politics is decided by the people, however, this does not violate democratic ideology. Among Asian countries, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Laotian President Chumali Saynhason are from poor families. On the other hand, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is the eldest son of the city-state`s first leader, Lee Kuan Yew. The father of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was his country`s second head of state. The U.S. journal Foreign Policy said Thursday that political nepotism is a world trend, though the degree varies.

The existence of famous political families in democratic countries in the 21st century is related to the tendency of voters who look to designer brands, according to the Foreign Policy. The U.S. has famous political families such as the Bushes, Kennedys and Clintons. In 2004, George W. Bush, the son of a former president, defeated in the presidential election Al Gore, the son of a three-term senator. Bush’s younger brother Jeb and Hillary Clinton, a former first lady, are considered leading candidates for the next election in 2016.

In Korea, the children of former presidents Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung have entered politics using the achievements of their fathers. Rep. In Jae-geun was elected to office thanks to the popularity of her husband Kim Geun-tae, a former Cabinet minister. Descendants of famous political families can grow big, but sometimes fail depending on their capacity. President-elect Park entered politics in 1998 when the Korean economy hit bottom. Clinton boosted the power of the Clinton brand established by her husband. President-elect Park might also make her family`s brand shine.

Ass`t Culture News Editor Lee Jin-yeong (ecolee@donga.com)