Daniel Halliday
May 12 · Last update 1 mo. ago.

Why is Japan's government proposing an age limit revision for public prosecutors?

The Japanese government’s decision to allow Hiromu Kurokawa, superintending prosecutor at the Tokyo High Public Prosecutors Office, to continue in his post passed the age of mandatory retirement has sparked controversy in Japan. Millions have taken part in a virtual protest on twitter, using the hashtag #検察庁法改正案に抗議します to condemn President Shinzo Abe for the move, criticising his motives and timing. Is the proposed revision of prosecution office term limits politically motivated? Should Hiromu Kurokawa be allowed to continue as Tokyo superintending prosecutor past the mandatory retirement age? Are the Japanese Government right to propose a revision to age limits for public prosecutors? www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/backstories/897 news.biglobe.ne.jp/entertainment/0511/ltr_200511_3342443031.html
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Part of a string of scandals affecting Shinzo Abe
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The awakening of a politically conscious Japanese celebrity class
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Abe is not letting a good crisis go to waste
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Illegal
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Government doesn’t want to lose an experienced prosecutor
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Part of a string of scandals affecting Shinzo Abe

This whole issue was a clear attempt by Shinzo Abe to groom Hiromu Kurakawa for the position of Prosecutor General, in order for Abe to have favourable judgements passed in his numerous scandals he is implicated in during his time in office. Several campaign financing scandals involving Abe’s cabinet members have plagued his time in office, leading many ministers to step down including Norihiko Akagi and Takehiko Endo in 2007, and Midori Matsushima and Yūko Obuchi in 2014. However the Moritomo Gakuen school scandal, and the finance ministry's subsequent efforts at a cover-up, falsifying documents that implicated Abe in the scandal, has been a defining moment in Abe's time leading the country, being designated ‘Abegate’.

However the advent of many smaller scandals and cover-ups is something that has plagued Abe’s leadership in recent years. For example “sakuragate” in which Abe's party used invitations to a government cherry blossom viewing party to reward supporters, which caused concern when the budget for the event escalated massively, and generated alarm when the guest list that was destroyed following a request by the opposition. This latest scandal involving a failed proposal to change the age limit for public prosecutors was a badly concealed attempt to further cover-up previous scandals, and its failure has left Abe with the lowest approval rating of his prime ministership, plummeting to just 27%. In fact Abegate and other cronyism scandals have been so damaging to Abe’s approval rating, they have caused the majority of businesses to want Abe to finish his term to September 2021 according to a study, as he has eroded public support through his numerous misdeeds.

mainichi.jp/english/articles/20200328/p2a/00m/0fp/005000c businesstimes.com.sg/opinion/abegate-may-be-just-the-tip-of-the-iceberg msn.com/en-us/news/world/abe-e2-80-99s-support-falls-into-e2-80-98danger-zone-e2-80-99-after-prosecutor-scandal/ar-BB14vD3z japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/05/24/national/politics-diplomacy/japan-shinzo-abe-hiromu-kurokawa-gambling-scandal-prosecutor-bill/#.XsoqbRMzbMI theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/25/scandals-threaten-japanese-prime-minister-shinzo-abes-grip-on-power washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/japanese-prime-minister-abe-embroiled-in-scandals-faces-calls-to-stand- reuters.com/article/us-japan-companies-abe-idUSKBN1Y92T4

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Daniel Halliday
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However the advent of many smaller scandals and cover-ups is something that has plagued Abe’s leadership in recent years. For example “sakuragate” in which Abe's party used invitations to a government cherry blossom viewing party to reward supporters, which caused concern when the budget for the event escalated massively, and generated alarm when the guest list that was destroyed following a request by the opposition. This latest scandal involving a failed proposal to change the age limit for public prosecutors was a badly concealed attempt to further cover-up previous scandals, and its failure has left Abe with the lowest approval rating of his prime ministership, plummeting to just 27%. In fact Abegate and other cronyism scandals have been so damaging to Abe’s approval rating, they have caused the majority of businesses to want Abe to finish his term to September 2021 according to a study, as he has eroded public support through his numerous misdeeds.

The awakening of a politically conscious Japanese celebrity class

This scandal may have been a cynical attempt influence the judiciary, an abuse of power to avoid prosecution for corruption, or an innocent attempt to retain an experienced prosecutor, but it is clear that the very public backlash on social media was celebrity led. A number of renowned actors, manga artists, comedians and musicians led the anti-Abe protest on Twitter, in what some have commented is a sign of celebrities in Japan waking up to the fact that they can have a positive influence on society. Speaking out with passion about politics is commonly seen as a faux pas in Japan, but Abe seems to have inspired the breaking of this tradition with this celebrity led protest on social media.

Seemingly encouraged by the social activism of foreign celebrities like Leonardo Di Caprio or Bono, celebrities have tapped into the fact that people are tired of the government not working in their interest. Actors such as Arata Iura, Kyoko Koizumi and Noriko Suwon, musicians such as Komuai, Okamoto Rage of Okamotozu, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, Licaxx, Ikimonogakari, Yoshiki Mizuno, as well as comedian Kayoko Okubo, renaissance man Shigesato Itoi voiced their opinions on twitter. While theatre director Amon Miyamoto wrote "in this confusion over the coronavirus, we should focus on (saving) people's lives. It's a tragedy for Japan to forcibly decide on the bill, which is far from democracy", and Arata Iura was even more direct, with "Please do not twist the law or politics anymore for the sake of self-protection. Please do not destroy this country" [1].

scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/3083802/dont-destroy-country-japan-celebrities-break-tradition-lead-anti [1] news.biglobe.ne.jp/entertainment/0511/ltr_200511_3342443031.html mainichi.jp/english/articles/20200511/p2g/00m/0na/017000c

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Daniel Halliday
Jun 12
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https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/3083802/dont-destroy-country-japan-celebrities-break-tradition-lead-anti [1] https://news.biglobe.ne.jp/entertainment/0511/ltr_200511_3342443031.html https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20200511/p2g/00m/0na/017000c

Abe is not letting a good crisis go to waste

What is more cynical than the clear effort by Shinzo Abe at stripping back the separation of powers is the timing of this attempt to exert influence over the judiciary branch of government, by change the retirement age for Japanese prosecutors in the middle of global pandemic. At a time when the Japanese general public were facing the anxiety of an unprecedented health crisis, Abe was seemingly quick to not let a good crisis go to waste. This is not the first time Abe has been accused of utilising a crisis to his political advantage, he has been accused of using terrorist threats as an excuse to militarise the country in the past, but this latest misstep seems particularly undemocratic and ill-timed.

Some journalists used the term "kajibadorobo" to describe Abe's shameless attempt at bypassing the normal checks and balances of government, likening him to “A Thief at a Fire in the Middle of the Coronavirus Pandemic” [1]. While this caused a massive backlash online, will millions of people voicing their opposition to Abe's flagrant disregard for legal standards, this isn't the first time Abe has placed subservient minions to key posts in government. Ultimately Abe's latest lackey would step down before he could even fill this position, but not as a government response to public opposition but due to the prosecutors own involvement in a separate scandal, involving breaking pandemic lockdown to partake in illegal gambling.

japantoday.com/category/politics/japan%27s-abe-criticised-for-move-on-prosecutors-during-coronavirus-crisis japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2015/02/07/commentary/abe-acts-quickly-exploit-japans-nightmare/#.XsunhxMzbMI [1] thedailybeast.com/under-cover-of-the-covid-crisis-shinzo-abe-tried-to-install-his-man-as-top-prosecutor-millions-said-no slotozilla.com/news/tokyo-prosecutorkurokawa-scandal

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Daniel Halliday
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https://japantoday.com/category/politics/japan%27s-abe-criticised-for-move-on-prosecutors-during-coronavirus-crisis https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2015/02/07/commentary/abe-acts-quickly-exploit-japans-nightmare/#.XsunhxMzbMI [1] https://www.thedailybeast.com/under-cover-of-the-covid-crisis-shinzo-abe-tried-to-install-his-man-as-top-prosecutor-millions-said-no https://www.slotozilla.com/news/tokyo-prosecutorkurokawa-scandal

Illegal

This issue has caused wide concern amongst both citizens and legal experts alike, as it represents the possible collapse of a modern nation - a clear collapse of the separation of the three powers, the legislature, executive, and judiciary branches of governance. The intention to make this an exception to aid Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is clear; this is not a random case, but a prosecutor close to the prime minister who would be in the perfect position to become Prosecutor General following a half-year extension beyond retirement. The conflict of interests here is blatant and clearly unconstitutional.

In any well functioning democracy the position of a prosecutor must stay separate from those in power, maintaining neutrality and impartiality as a prosecutor is vital in upholding the rule of law and should be free to investigate and indict anyone. Despite attempting to trample on this separation ahead of the stepping down of Prosecutor General Nobuo Inada in July 2020, Hiromu Kurokawa was involved in a gambling scandal amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Kurokawa ultimately stepped down in shame in May 2020, as this second scandal proved one too many for the public prosecutor, solidifying his disregard for adhering to both social and legal norms.

asahi.com/ajw/articles/13118994 buzzap.jp/news/20200510-kensatsucho-kurokawa bunshun.jp/articles/-/37734 japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2020/05/14/editorials/prosecutor-retirement-revision-dangerous-step/#.XsGx8xMzbMK japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/05/18/national/japan-prosecutor-bill-next-session/#.XsIt_BMzbMI japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/05/30/national/media-national/hiromu-kurokawa-resignation/#.XuNMAmr7SRs

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Daniel Halliday
Jun 12
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DH edited this paragraph
In any well functioning democracy the position of a prosecutor must stay separate from those in power, maintaining neutrality and impartiality as a prosecutor is vital in upholding the rule of law and should be free to investigate and indict anyone. Despite attempting to trample on this separation ahead of the stepping down of Prosecutor General Nobuo Inada in July 2020, Hiromu Kurokawa was involved in a gambling scandal amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Kurokawa ultimately stepped down in shame in May 2020, as this second scandal proved one too many for the public prosecutor, solidifying his disregard for adhering to both social and legal norms.

Government doesn’t want to lose an experienced prosecutor

Japan’s Justice Minister, Masako Mori, has stated that such a move is justified under the National Public Service Act, which “allows the government to extend the mandatory retirement age of a national government official by not more than one year if the retirement of the official could seriously hinder the execution of public duties” [1]. People protesting this issue do not understand the political and legal difficulty that the coronavirus pandemic poses for Japan’s government and legal system. It is a matter of a few months for an incredibly difficult period, in the midst of COVID-19, his experience shouldn’t go to waste under such pressing times.

This move is a temporary extension of an experienced prosecutor, that could be of tremendous benefit to the next generation of public prosecutors, his knowledge and expertise will be indispensable in the exceedingly complicated and testing times that are likely to follow this pandemic. In a rapidly ageing society such as Japan's retirement age will likely increase across the board as the tax burden of public pensions increases with people living longer and having less children. Likewise many positions of public office will ultimately have to increase age limits so this is something Japanese society needs to get used to.

[1] mainichi.jp/english/articles/20200204/p2a/00m/0na/015000c dw.com/en/japan-plans-to-raise-pension-age-beyond-70/a-42629344 theguardian.com/money/2016/aug/14/uk-younger-generation-pensions-bill-report eastasiaforum.org/2016/10/24/shifting-the-burden-of-ageing-in-japan

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Daniel Halliday
Jun 12
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DH edited this paragraph
[1] https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20200204/p2a/00m/0na/015000c https://www.dw.com/en/japan-plans-to-raise-pension-age-beyond-70/a-42629344 https://www.theguardian.com/money/2016/aug/14/uk-younger-generation-pensions-bill-report https://www.eastasiaforum.org/2016/10/24/shifting-the-burden-of-ageing-in-japan/
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