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[Opinion] Japanese Succession

Posted February. 09, 2006 04:30,   


Japanese are getting concerned because Japan’s imperial family has failed to produce a son in the last 41 years. Since 1965, when the second prince was born, there has been no male offspring among the emperor’s children and grandchildren.

Japanese imperial succession rules state that only a man can ascend to the throne. The country’s Constitution champions gender equality, but apparently there is gender discrimination in the “sacred” imperial family. If the imperial daughters-in-law fail to give birth to a son, there will be a succession problem.

Women can succeed the throne in more than half of the 21 monarchies in the world. Only Japan, Nepal, Malaysia, and a number of African kingdoms insist on male succession by men. The U.K and Spain say, “Men have priority, but women can also succeed.” Sweden and Norway give succession priority to the eldest son or daughter.

Senior officials in various sectors in Japan set the tone for a succession discussion by saying, “Let the granddaughters succeed the throne.” It seemed that a revision of imperial succession rules by majority vote in the Japanese Diet was only a matter of time.

But Japanese rightists began to oppose the move, saying, “The time-honored royal line has been succeeded by 125 men. Such a revision amounts to cutting the royal line.” They argue, “Although there were eight queens, their rein was only temporary until their successors grew up, and the succession of the royal line returned to men.” Some right-wingers go so far as to say, “If the four-year-old daughter of the emperor gets married a Korean ‘Lee,’ Japan will be subject to a bloodless occupation.” Their hidden motive is to maintain Japan’s imperial lineage, which is the spiritual stronghold of Japan’s right wing.

With conservative parliamentarians joining the right-wingers, it was said that even the Koizumi administration, supported by rightists, would be hard pressed to push the revision through parliament.

Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that the wife of the second prince is pregnant, and she is expected to give birth in September or October. If she produces a boy, he will be given priority to ascend to the throne. as a male member of the imperial family, despite being the fourth child. This would make a revision of succession regulations more difficult. Japan may be the “country of the gods,” as former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori put it. The country’s politics are as unpredictable as the gods are.

Kim Choong-sik, Editorial Writer, skim@donga.com