Koizumi, Junichiro

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Koizumi, Junichiro

Junichiro Koizumi (jŏŏnē´chērō kōē´zōōmē), 1942–, Japanese political leader, b. Yokosuka. From a political family, he studied economics at Keio Univ. (grad. 1967). He entered politics in 1970 as a member of the Liberal Democratic party (LDP), and two years later was elected to the Diet. Koizumi served as minister of health and welfare in 1988 and from 1996 to 1997. As the leader of a grassroots element of the LDP, with a reputation as a rebel fighting against the party's entrenched conservative leadership, he was elected party president in 2001 and shortly thereafter succeeded Yoshiro Mori as prime minister. A colorful figure, he pledged to lift Japan from its economic malaise, revise its constitution, privatize government-owned businesses, modernize its political system, improve relations with its Asian neighbors, and eliminate factionalism from the LDP. Achieving those goals proved difficult, however, as reform was resisted by the entrenched bureaucracy and by LDP factions that would be affected by reform, and Koizumi's government soon came largely to resemble those of his predecessors. He did ultimately achieve cuts in public spending and make progress in deregulation; he also made a landmark visit to North Korea in 2002, which led to the establishment of diplomatic relations. Defeat of his postal privatization plan in 2005, in part by LDP Diet members, led to a snap election in which Koizumi secured a large majority in the lower house; the plan was subsequently passed. He retired as party president and prime minister in 2006. Following the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, he came to favor Japan's abandonment of nuclear energy and campaigned against nuclear power.

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