Monday, March 7, 2011

Japan Foreign Minister Maehara forced to resign over Korean connection

Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara, who has sought a mutually helpful and enthusiastic partnership with neighboring South Korea (see here and here), has been forced to resign.

The reason? He accepted a donation from a foreign national:
At a news conference Sunday evening, Maehara apologized for causing distrust in his handling of political funds but stressed that the donations did not influence his work as foreign minister.

"The donations had no effect whatsoever on my duties as foreign minister nor have I ever done any favors for donors in my political career," Maehara said. "But regardless of the amount of the donations or the fact that I was unaware (of them), I must seriously accept the fact that a politician who was (appointed) foreign minister accepted donations from a foreigner."
Wow, that sounds serious, you might think. Except the ¥50,000 (about US$500) donation was from a friend of his he's known since junior high school, someone who runs a Korean BBQ restaurant in his 'hood. The foreign national is a South Korean citizen who is a permanent resident of Japan. Such zainichi, even if they were born in Japan, are foreigners and accepting donations from them is illegal. In fact, Mr Maehara faces a punishment of up to three years in prison.

I honestly don't know enough about these aspects of Japanese politics, but I wonder if such laws are archaic. Since the zainichi Koreans in Japan (among whom my former fiancée was one) must choose between the DPRK (North Korea) and the ROK (South Korea), perhaps Japan-born "foreigners" who are not aligned with the enemy state should be exempt, especially if Japan goes forward with laws that allow them to vote in local elections.

I imagine, though, that must be a touchy subject. After all, the zainichi are mostly able to obtain Japanese citizenship, and if they are unwilling to do so, then maybe they shouldn't be allowed to influence Japanese politics. Still, non-citizen residents, particularly lifelong residents, are strongly affected by government policy, so how do they get any say?

Anyway, I'm disappointed that someone who seemed so good for Seoul-Tokyo politics is now gone from the scene. Not only is he no longer FM, he also has no chance of being tapped to be PM.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, I am disappointed too. He had struck me as outstanding PM material.


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