Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was shot and killed on the 8th. Although not an incumbent prime minister, the Japanese archipelago was also shocked when the leader of the Abe faction, the longest-serving prime minister in Japanese history and the largest faction in the ruling party, was assassinated during a campaign just two days before the House of Representatives elections. This incident, repeated for the first time in 90 years in Japan, is expected to have a significant impact on the economy and international situation in the future.
First post-war assassination of former prime minister
Japan, like South Korea, is classified as a country with very strict gun regulations worldwide. Unlike South Korea, guns and ammunition can be kept at home if you get a gun ownership permit, but there has been no case since the end of World War II that a former prime minister was assassinated with a gun. In particular, former Prime Minister Abe was an incumbent member of the House of Representatives who resigned from his post as prime minister, and was known as one of the most influential figures behind the scenes in Japanese politics.
If history goes back to pre-World War II, this isn’t the first time a politician has been assassinated in Japan. Former Prime Minister Abe’s maternal grandfather, then Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, was also seriously wounded by a knife stabbing his thigh in 1960. The so-called ‘Taisho Democracy’ period, when democracy was spreading in Japan in the 1910s and 1920s, also ended with a series of assassinations of politicians in the 1930s.
In November 1930, Prime Minister Osachi Hamaguchi was shot by a far-right young man for violating the Emperor’s control. He did not die shortly thereafter, but eventually became ill and died in August of the following year. In May 1932, Prime Minister Tsuyoshi Inukai was assassinated by young right-wing officers at his official residence. In 1936, during the Great Depression, Japan’s cabinet implemented quantitative easing policy, and Korekiyo Takahashi, who is considered to be the first to escape from the Great Depression, was assassinated. Both were ministers at the time of their assassination, but served as prime ministers. This incident, called the 2.26 coup, put Japan on a path of irreversible militarism.
The future of ‘three arrows’ is opaque
Abe’s tenure as Prime Minister influenced the world situation in two major ways. The first is the establishment of a line to contain China in the Indo-Pacific region together with the United States based on the economic keynote, which was called ‘Abenomics’ and the second, the solid US-Japan alliance.
Abenomics is also called the ‘Three Arrows’ policy because it consists of three major pillars: △Expansion Monetary Policy △Flexible Fiscal Policy △Structural Reform such as Labor Flexibility. Under the banner of overcoming the long-term recession of the Japanese economy, an ultra-accommodative monetary policy of negative interest rates and control of the Treasury yield curve was introduced. This has created an environment where businesses can borrow and spend money at very low cost. The government has actively invested in large-scale infrastructure and implemented aggressive tax incentives for businesses. This was to provide enormous liquidity to the market.
Reviews of Abenomics are mixed at home and abroad. Some criticize that Abenomics’ structural reform did not live up to expectations and that economic polarization has expanded. Another problem is that Japan’s national debt has grown too much. Currently, Japan’s national debt-to-GDP ratio is 256%, the highest among the G7 countries. The Bank of Japan’s government bond holdings ratio, which stood at 13% in March 2013, exceeded 50% as of the end of last month.
On the other hand, some argue that it is difficult to deny that Japanese companies’ export competitiveness has increased through the weakening of the yen. In fact, Japan’s GDP increased by 8.6% since Abe took office in 2012, and in the case of the Nikkei Index, which was only around 9000 in 2012, it soared to the highest level in 20 years, exceeding 20,000 in 2015. In particular, the Japanese economy was faced with the worst of a long-term recession due to the great disaster of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.
Analysts say that the Abenomics policy, which has received mixed reviews, exerts a great influence behind the scenes and will end its fate with the death of former Prime Minister Abe, who was even called ‘the king’. Abenomics has been spearheaded by Governor Haruhiko Kuroda, who has been leading the Bank of Japan (BOJ) since April 2013. After Abe resigned in 2020, he continued to insist on monetary easing as governor of the Bank of Japan, even while the prime minister changed twice. Former Prime Minister Abe as the ‘designer’ and Governor Kuroda as the ‘executor’ made it possible for Abenomics to continue.
On the other hand, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is a so-called ‘sound fiscal faction’ with a position to reduce the fiscal deficit. However, with the addition of a tribute to former Prime Minister Abe, Kiroda’s term of office will end in April next year, with the Kishida cabinet winning an unexpectedly overwhelming victory, which is expected to increase Prime Minister Kishida’s influence. The possibility of becoming the new Bank of Japan governor has increased as a person who has to accept the monetary easing policy according to Prime Minister Kishida’s taste has increased. If this happens, Abenomics could also be at risk.
Peace Constitution and ‘Right of Collective Self-Defense’
After Abe became prime minister for the second time in 2012, he assumed a key role in the US anti-China alliance during his eight-year tenure. A representative example is Quad (the Security Council of the United States, Japan, Australia, and India). Quad was actually founded to discuss relief support for the 2004 Southeast Asian tsunami. has been upgraded.
It was brought to the surface by former U.S. President Donald Trump, who had been infamous for a while, but did not even avoid the U.S.-China trade war to contain China, and the U.S. administration of Joe Biden upgraded it to a summit between leaders. In this process, Abe is considered as one of the people who played the biggest role in re-establishing Quad and expanding its role. Abe and Trump wanted Quad to act as the de facto Asian version of NATO, and while it’s hard to see that they’ve fully accomplished that now, it does do a lot.
The revision of Article 9 (Peace Constitution) of the Constitution, which continues to be controversial not only in Japan but also in Korea, is in the same vein. The Peace Constitution stipulates that ‘1) As a means of resolving international disputes, wars in which national sovereignty is exercised, and the threat or use of force, are permanently renounced. As a result, you cannot have an army. The name of the Self-Defense Forces, which is the de facto army, also states from the name that if the country is invaded, its role is limited only to preventing it in terms of the right to self-defense.
However, in July 2014, the Abe cabinet decided to allow the exercise of the right to collective self-defense by changing the official view of previous cabinets that ‘as a sovereign country, although it has the right to collective self-defense but does not exercise it’. It changed the interpretation that it could exercise the right to collective self-defense. The right to collective self-defense means the right to use force even if another country, especially an ally, has been attacked, as if it were attacked. For example, in the case of Japan, despite being a representative ally of the United States, it failed to send its troops to the Iraq war in 2003.
In September 2015, the Abe cabinet and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, along with the Gongmyeong Party, which constitutes the ruling coalition, also passed the ‘Peace and Safety Act’ in the National Assembly, which stipulates the expansion of the self-defense force’s activities and the exercise of the right to collective self-defense. This is a law that allows the Self-Defense Forces to intervene in the event of an attack on Japan’s close allies or allies. And in this House of Representatives election, the LDP came up with the long-awaited reform of the Peace Constitution, which had long been a wish of former Prime Minister Abe, as the de facto party argument.
Liberal Democratic Party wins House of Councilors election
The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) won the House of Councilors election by a landslide, exceeding expectations, in an unprecedented event that the longest-serving Prime Minister of the Liberal Party died during an election campaign. Before the election of the House of Representatives (Japan’s Senate), the coalition ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the Komeito Party had 139 seats. Previously, more than half of the 245 seats, the total number of seats, were exceeded, but 7 seats are added this time. In particular, the LDP secures 63 seats in this election, where only half of the seats are newly elected, and it alone secures more than a majority of seats without the coalition ruling party, the Gongmyung Party.
Although the ruling party alone did not occupy two-thirds of the seats available for constitutional amendment, if the conservative opposition parties in favor of constitutional amendment, the Japan Restoration Party and the People’s Democratic Party, add up the seats, the total number of seats is 177, easily exceeding two-thirds of the total. Even in the House of Representatives, which already plays the role of the House of Representatives, constitutional amendment parties have won more than two-thirds of the total seats. According to Japanese media such as the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, the forces promoting constitutional amendment will hold a constitutional review meeting in the House of Representatives and the House of Representatives during the next year to propose a constitutional amendment that includes the Self-Defense Forces in the constitution in 2024, and the scenario of a constitutional amendment referendum in the following year. It is under review. Prime Minister Kishida said on his election day broadcast, “I will propose (a constitutional amendment) as soon as possible and lead it to a referendum.”
Of particular note is that there are no major elections scheduled for the next three years in Japan. Even in Korea, which is a presidential system, if the ruling party has secured a stable majority in the National Assembly and there are no midterm elections in the future, the government’s ruling party will gain strength. Even more so in Japan, where a cabinet system in which the ruling party or prime minister can change with one parliamentary election. Under such circumstances, the fact that there will be no large-scale elections for the next three years means that there is more room to push forward.
Relations between Korea and Japan are expected to become ‘clock zero’ again. After the inauguration of President Yoon Seok-yeol, who repeatedly expressed his will to improve relations between Korea and Japan in May, there was an analysis that the two countries would find a clue to improving relations. In particular, there are speculations that the visa-free entry system for both Korea and Japan, which has been suspended since the full-scale spread of Corona 19 in March 2020, will be revived next month. However, the variable is the possibility of Japan’s shift to the right due to the unprecedented assassination of the former prime minister and the resulting landslide victory of the LDP. In particular, there is concern that the progress of the Abe faction, which has mainly been a hardline voice for Korea in this election, will be a red flag for improving bilateral relations.
Reporter Song Young-chan email@example.com