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Personnel Appointments

Posted June. 12, 2010 08:27,   


Former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama is known as a “momma’s boy” in Japanese politics. He entered politics upon the wish of his mother, who was the eldest daughter of the founder of Bridgestone Corp., the world`s largest tire and rubber manufacturer. He founded the Democratic Party of Japan with his mother’s money. When he married his wife, Miyuki Hatoyama, who was married to another man while he was studying in the United States, his mother apologized to her former husband on her son’s behalf. When he took office as prime minister eight months ago, many expected a leader who was soft outside but strong inside. He turned out to be weak, however, and resigned after his approval rate plunged below 20 percent from more than 80 percent.

Hatoyama, however, surprisingly brought down with him Ichiro Ozawa, his party’s secretary general and political kingpin. The U.K. weekly Economist gave Hatoyama credit for taking down Ozawa. Possessing vision, resourcefulness and the ability to implement his ideas, Ozawa is the top architect in Japanese politics and a “shadow shogun.”

Naoto Kan, who was sworn in as Japan’s new prime minister Tuesday, conducted a post-Ozawa Cabinet reshuffle that seemed risky to many people. He had to erase Ozawa’s color from his Cabinet to give the Japanese people the impression of change. Kan could do so because he had no political debt owed to Ozawa. The party’s secretary general, chief Cabinet minister and finance minister are anti-Ozawa. The public hailed the change. In opinion polls conducted by major Japanese media Thursday, Kan’s approval rating surged to as high as 68 percent. More than half of the respondents said Kan did the right thing to draw the line with the Ozawa camp.

Kan’s reshuffle proves that he read the public’s mind and that personnel appointments are the secret to politics. In any country, people often decide whether to pin their hopes on their ruler based on their government’s personnel appointments. That is why Korea’s Lee Myung-bak administration needs to make a swift and sweeping reshuffle, as urged by Gyeonggi Province Gov. Kim Moon-soo and main opposition Democratic Party floor leader Park Jie-won. The president has the power to appoint key government posts but it is the people who make the president. Therefore, the people have the right to support or oppose the president’s right to appoint. Their sentiment usually surfaces in the form of public opinion or votes in elections. The Korean people are watching how President Lee reshuffles key government posts in a timely manner in accordance with the people’s will as shown in last week’s local elections.

Editorial Writer Kim Sun-deok (yuri@donga.com)