Go to contents

THE DONG-A ILBO Logo

Japanese prime minister`s another DNA

Posted October. 28, 2013 04:20,   

한국어

Nobusuke Kishi (1896-1987), Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s grandfather on his mother’s side, was the figure who would brag that he designed the state of Manchuria, a puppet country Japan established in China. Kishi served as the vice defense minister and the commerce and industry minister at the Cabinet of Hideki Tojo (1884-1948), who initiated the Pacific War. After Japan’s loss in the war, he was arrested as Class A war criminal, and imprisoned at Sugamo Prison in Tokyo for three years. After luckily being released through non-indictment, he continued his successful career while serving as chief secretary and foreign minister of the Liberal Democratic Party newly launched in 1955.

Since his inauguration as the 56th Prime Minister in 1957, he took bold moves to “make Japan a normal state” by urging the enactment of a Constitution of self-reliance as he even openly stated at the diet that Japan’s possession of nuclear weapons is not unconstitutional until his resignation due to a national security blunder in 1960. Back then, people used to call him the “Monster of the Showa era (the era name for Japanese King Hirohito: 1926-1989).”

Prime Minister Abe, who vows to reinstate “Strong Japan,” takes pride in his grandfather on his mother’s side. Abe considers Kishi a politician who undauntedly followed commitment to rebuilding Japan. He has openly said, “I am the son of Shintaro Abe but inherited DNA from Nobusuke Kishi.”

On the other hand, Prime Minister Abe has in his blood strong hereditary legacy of Kan Abe (1894-1946), his grandfather on his father’s side whom he rarely mentions. Fiercely contending with the Tojo administration that brought Japan to the war, Kan Abe was a politician who lived a life in completely opposite direction of Kishi’s.

After graduating from the political science department at Tokyo Imperial University, Kan severely criticized existing political parties that were incompetent against the military at the general elections in 1937. Since being elected a member of the House of Representatives as independent candidate in his hometown of Yamaguchi Prefecture, Kan won re-election after registering as candidate without recommendation at the 1942 general elections, which the Tojo Cabinet introduced a recommendation system to fail candidates who were not supportive of war. Though police tracked his moves around the clock and tried to block his election, Kan kept his strong conviction as a pacifist. After his election, he staged a campaign to oust the Tojo Cabinet and terminate the war. Takeo Miki (1907-1988), a flagship soft-liner of the Liberal Democratic Party who later became the prime minister in 1974, was a compatriot executing the campaign with Kan to oust the Tojo administration. Kan died of tuberculosis at the age of 52 in 1946, the following year after Japan’s defeat in World War II.

Kishi and Kan, who symbolized completely opposite images – war and peace – despite sharing the hometown of Yamaguchi Prefecture, joined hands at one point in time. It happened when Kishi returned to his hometown in protest against Prime Minister Tojo at the closing part of the war. When Japan was close to losing the war, Kishi betrayed Tojo in a plot to survive after the war. Kan died soon after, but as a result of their short-lived relations, Shintaro, Kan’s only son, and Yoko, Kishi’s eldest daughter, married in 1951. Shinzo Abe is the couple’s second son.

Prime Minister Abe considers “struggling politics” as his political credo. He considers as his role model his grandfather on his mother’s side, who pushed ahead with amendment of the U.S.-Japan security treaty in 1960 despite opposition by the opposition parties and left-leaning forces. Politics scholars in Japan, however, judge that a genuinely struggling politician was not his grandfather on his mother’s side, but his grandfather on his father’s side who fought against military dictatorship.

Prime Minister Abe had no chance to meet his grandfather on his father’s side, who had died too early. If Abe grew up with love and care of his grandfather on his father’s side, he might have taken a completely different path as politician. If Kan Abe were the leader, how would he have changed today’s Japan? We hope to pay attention to the other DNA circulating in Prime Minister Abe’s blood these days when tension is mounting in Northeast Asia.