Japan from the inside out

Koga Shigeaki interview

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, June 18, 2011

LAST OCTOBER, Your Party invited Koga Shigeaki of the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry to testify in the upper house of the Diet. Mr. Koga has become known as a bureaucrat championing radical reform of Japan’s civil service system.

Koga Shigeaki testifying in the Diet

One of the primary pledges of the Democratic Party in Japan during its days in the opposition was the promise to enact bureaucratic reform of the sort Mr. Koga favors. It was one of the reasons the Japanese public voted for a change of government and put the DPJ in office. Once in government, however, the DPJ backtracked immediately on its pledges, as has often been explained here.

During his testimony, Mr. Koga said, “The government tried to debone the provisions against amakudari (post-retirement jobs for bureaucrats in semi-public bodies in the industries they once regulated).” The chief cabinet secretary at the time was Sengoku Yoshito, former Socialist Party member, attorney for gangsters, sokaiya, and Korean nationals born in Japan associated with Chongryun, the new backroom puppeteer in the DPJ, and the man at the forefront of the Dump Kan movement in his own party.

Some of his former clients’ habits seem to have rubbed off on him — when Mr. Koga pointed out the emperor was buck naked, Mr. Sengoku shouted out on the Diet floor that his testimony would “harm his future”. It was one of the several reasons Mr. Sengoku was later censured by the upper house, forcing Prime Minister Kan to replace him.

Koga Shigeaki released his first book last month, and he was interviewed recently by the Sankei Shimbun. Here it is in English

How did it come about that you were yelled at in the Diet?

When testifying about civil service reform, I said, “The government tried to debone the provisions against amakudari. Mr. Sengoku then stood up and shouted at the questioner, “That will harm his future.” I thought he was rather angry, and it was frightening. It still is frightening. That’s because, rather than Mr. Sengoku, I criticized the DPJ government.

Why do you think Mr. Sengoku shouted without debating you directly?

I was telling the truth, so he probably calculated that if he criticized me directly, he would be branded as a member of the old guard.

And that was frightening?

As long as Mr. Sengoku was in that position and the DPJ was in power, I would be abused and not given any real work to do.

What is your perception of Mr. Sengoku?

He’s a theoretician. He understood the need for reform. He has more guile than the number of his election victories (six) would suggest, and he has refined that guile since becoming a member of government. He has the ability to use deception to change the minds of those around him.

It’s also said that he leans toward the Finance Ministry view and favors a tax increase.

The Finance Ministry wasn’t able to easily force him out (of the sumo ring), and he tried to rally at the edge of the ring. But he was unable to do so, and moved to the tax hike path. How will a tax increase bring about growth in the Japanese economy? I have no idea.

What do you think of the political leadership (concept) espoused by the Democratic Party?

They made the mistake of trying to respond to the Tohoku earthquake/tsunami without the assistance of the bureaucracy. Mr. Sengoku is well aware that neither the party nor anyone in it has the ability for that sort of political leadership. That’s why he created a liaison council with people of the deputy minister class as an alternative after the disaster.

The Kan administration seems to have come to a dead end.

What happened is what was bound to happen. The initial response to the disaster by the prime minister and those around him was panic. There was a serious breach between them and government officials. The DPJ government does not have the capability to govern, and there is arrogance throughout their administration.

On the 14th, Maruyama Kazuya of the LDP asked to call Mr. Koga to the Diet as a witness to question him about the latter’s proposed plan for Tokyo Electric’s payment of compensation for the Fukushima nuclear accident.

When the directors of the Diet committee in question discussed Mr. Maruyama’s idea to invite Mr. Koga, Okazaki Tomiko of the DPJ was adamantly opposed. She said:

“While he has been called to testify as a government expert in the past for the upper house Budget Committee, he did nothing but express his individual opinions.”

The representatives of all the other parties were in favor of having Mr. Koga appear, but it is the long-standing practice to call witnesses based on unanimous agreement. Therefore, he was not invited.

In fact, his name was not even placed on the list of those submitted to the directors of the committee for deliberation. The upper house secretariat apologized and said it was a simple error, but Mr. Maruyama charged there was “pressure from Mr. Sengoku and others to use every means to stifle debate”.

It’s curious, by the way, that Okazaki Tomiko would be the one to complain that Mr. Koga offered nothing but opinions. After all, she’s so full of them herself. Here’s a reprise of what I wrote about her in January this year.

Okazaki Tomiko is another rodent who fled the sinking ship of the Socialist Party and scampered up the gangway to the Democratic Party vessel. She is opposed to Japan’s national flag and anthem. In July 2001, her political group illegally received funds from foreigners, including the director of the North Korean-affiliated schools in the country—a North Korean citizen–and a South Korean citizen who operates a pachinko parlor. The most controversial aspect of her career, however, was this:

That’s Ms. Okazaki participating in one of the weekly Wednesday comfort women demos at the Japanese embassy in Seoul in March 2005. She called for a Japanese embassy car to take her there.

They didn’t find some token make-work position for her in the Cabinet, either. She was named the chair of the National Public Safety Commission, which administers the National Police Agency. In other words, she was the head of the government agency in charge of maintaining public safety.

Politicians have the same right to free speech as anyone else, but they’re expected to exercise it with common sense and an awareness of their position. When a member of the Japanese Diet participates in a demonstration with Xs over the Japanese flag, it suggests an absence of common sense and self-awareness. Consider also what it suggests about Kan Naoto, who appointed her knowing about her background.

Ms. Okazaki’s immediate problem was that despite the ease with which she showed up for an anti-Japanese demonstration in Seoul, she couldn’t manage to drag herself to her office in Tokyo after North Korea shelled the South in November. Also, documents related to international terror investigations put together by the NPA somehow wound up on the Internet, and she made no effort to find a way to prevent the problem from recurring in the future.

She lasted just four and a half months in office.

There must be the strain of a perverse sense of humor running through what passes for the minds of the Democratic Party. Why else would they appoint this woman to be the head of the National Public Safety Commission when they could have found some job for her in a more innocuous branch of the bureaucracy? They did it before when they appointed Tsujimoto Kiyomi to be the vice-minister of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport in the Hatoyama Cabinet. Several years ago, in an unguarded moment, she used a Japanese pun to tell a journalist it was her job as a Diet member to “destroy the nation”. Mr. Kan also appointed her to direct the volunteer efforts nationwide to help those who survived the Tohoku earthquake/tsunami. After the Hanshin earthquake in 1995, she volunteered her own assistance by going to the area and passing out anti-government leaflets.

This character disability is shared by people of the same political warp throughout the world. Some will remember that staffers in the Clinton administration in the U.S. thought it would be snicker city to hang sex toys as ornaments from the White House Christmas tree. Others had the last laugh. During his second term, Mr. Clinton was, so to speak, hoist by his own petard.

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