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Opposition calls on PM to acknowledge his family’s use of POW slaves

February 7, 2009

Imagine if German chancellor Angela Merkel had gone into politics after running a family mining business that had used prisoners of war captured by the Nazis as slave labour in its mines.  And imagine that she refused to acknowledge the issue.

It’s unimaginable.  Skeletons of that magnitude in the closet would have prevented her rising to high office in the first place, maybe even from entering politics at all.

It’s not unimaginable in Japan, however.  In a country that doesn’t really do public outrage, this is precisely the life history of Prime Minister Taro Aso.

A parliamentary committee heard last December what’s been talked about abroad for some time, namely that Aso Mining, founded by the PM’s grandfather enslaved “300 British, Dutch and Australian POWs as well as civilians kidnapped from Asia” at the company’s Kyushu mines.

This week, opposition MP Yukihisa Fujita called on the PM to issue a specific, personal apology, saying “Mr Aso should take this opportunity and send a sincere message to the survivors”.

So far, Aso’s only response has been to issue a statement saying simply that “Japan has taken appropriate steps over the POW issue through apologies and compensation”.

Aso, famous for his unapologetically (spotting a theme?) lavish lifestyle as provided by the riches from that family business, currently ‘enjoys’ approval ratings below 20% as his Liberal Democratic party look like losing grip on power, and facing their first sustained period in opposition in 50 years.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Ian permalink
    February 9, 2009 5:36 pm

    How much of the pressure being applied is out of a desire for an apology and how much is out of making political capital out of a very sensitive issue? My grandfather died in Burma in WWII and I can only imagine what pain that caused my Mum – so any apology and acknowledgement would be welcome – but I can’t help feeling queasy over the motivations of anyone other than veterans and their families

  2. February 10, 2009 8:53 pm

    I think you know the answer to your question already.
    This was only waved under everyone’s nose after he became PM, and is only being pushed now because he and his party are in dire turmoil.
    On top of that, it’s unlikely to have the ‘desired’ (if you can even call it that) effect as he’s unlikely to be in power much longer, and then he’ll fade into the background.

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