Abe cabinet ministers under fire over controversial remarks

Updated By on Apr 25, 2017, 09:00 am
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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe drinks milk during his visit to a cattle ranch that reopened after Fukushima nuclear crisis on Apr. 8. On the same day, Abe apologized over controversial remarks recently made by his disaster reconstruction minister, who said that the people who voluntarily evacuated from areas tainted by Fukushima nuclear disaster should take responsibility for their own decisions./ Source: Yonhap News


By Tokyo correspondent Um Soo-ah & reporter Kim Ye-jin - The recent controversial remarks by ministers in the Cabinet of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have sparked criticism about slackness in the government.

According to the Mainichi Shimbun on Sunday, Regional Revitalization Minister Kozo Yamamoto apologized after coming under fire for calling curators "the No. 1 cancer" that needs to be "wiped out" at a seminar in Otsu on April 16. Toshinao Nakagawa, Vice Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, resigned from the ruling party over an extramarital affair.

Masahiro Imamura, Disaster Reconstruction Minister, told reporters on April 7 that those who voluntarily evacuated due to high levels of radiation after the outbreak of the Fukushima nuclear disaster were "responsible for taking care of themselves." He was being asked by reporters about the government's responsibility for supporting evacuees. He then shouted at one of the reporters who kept asking questions to "get out."

Starting this month, the Japanese government will lift evacuation orders for the "restricted residence areas" and the "areas under preparation for lifting the evacuation order". Lifting of evacuation orders means an end to support for evacuees.
 
Imamura apologized for being emotional, but failed to appease evacuees' anger. He visited the disaster-hit public housing in Miyagi prefecture on Saturday and said, "I apologize again for causing concern."

Despite ministers' verbal gaffes, the approval rating of Abe's Cabinet was higher than the previous month, according to the Mainichi Shimbun. The result was same for public polls released by major media such as Kyodo News, Asahi Shimbun, and Yomiuri Shimbun.

This seems to be the result of the recent Abe administration's focus on North Korea by emphasizing the possibility of North Korea's sixth nuclear test. The Mainichi Shimbun poll showed that the approval rating has risen 1% point to 51% compared to the previous month. The survey was conducted on 1,011 people aged 18 and over nationwide by telephone on April 22-23.

In a poll released by Kyodo News on Sunday, the approval rating for Abe's cabinet rose 6.3% points to 58.7%. According to a Asahi Shimbun poll released on April 18, the approval rating increased by 1% point to 50% from the previous month, and a Yomiuri Shimbun survey showed that it was 60%, up 4% points from the previous month.

The Mainichi Shimbun reported that the Cabinet members are carelessly making verbal gaffes due to stable approval ratings for the administration which have been exceeding 50% recently. DP Secretary-General Yoshihiko Noda said, "The series of off-key statements made by Cabinet members shows negligence on the part of the administration." Akira Koike, the secretariat chief of the Japanese Communist Party, urged Yamamoto to resign, saying, "The one who needs to be 'wiped out' is someone like this Cabinet member."

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