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Japanese News: June week 1 (Moritomo only)

This week, Finance Minister Taro ASO communicated the results of the investigation conducted by the Ministry to clear up the Moritomo problem. There has been an avalanche of articles on the subject in Mainichi, and I was so deeply buried under it that I had no willpower left to examine other topics this week. (Now I know that I can’t draw avalanches)

Moritomo Gakuen scandal

There has been some development concerning the falsification of documents relative to the sale of public land with a huge discount to Moritomo Gakuen. (I feel that every article in the subject in Japanese starts with such a long sentence).

We know now that the Finance ministry acknowledged that Nobuhisa SAGAWA is implied in and even gave directions for the falsification of the documents. However, there will be no prosecution against the officials concerned.

The Finance Ministry will take intern sanction against 20 officials, including Sagawa.

Sagawa’s sanction is three months of suspension from office. However, in March of this year, Sagawa had already received a punishment from the Ministry: 20% salary reduction for 3 months. He had resigned from his post at the time. As a consequence, the Ministry added another sanction (if he resigned, the original one could not apply). According to this new sanction, the payment of his pension had been postponed. As for now, as we can obviously not suspend someone who has already resigned, the sanction he received this week has been commuted into a reduction of his retirement pay. This reduction corresponds to (or is equivalent to) three months suspension. Now, I wonder what this means exactly and how they calculate it. Anyway, in Japanese, it is “今回は「停職処分相当」として、退職金を減額する”. (source).

Edit: I found in another article the exact amount of reduction: “退職金(4999万円)から513万円を減額する”. So it’s a 10% reduction then…

Let’s take this opportunity to study the disciplinary measures for officials in Japan.

Disciplinary measures system

Source: 国有地売却問題 文書改ざん、調査結果発表 停職、2番目の重さ

National measures

The National Public Service Law (国家公務員法・こっかこうむいんほう) provides for 4 types of sanctions or “disciplinary measures” (懲戒処分・ちょうかいしょぶん). In order of gravity:

  1. 免職・めんしょく: dismissal from office
  2. 停職・ていしょく: suspension from office
  3. 減給・げんきゅう: reduction of one’s salary
  4. 戒告・かいこく: an admonition

As you can see, Sagawa got the second sanction. Even if the sanction will not apply as such (as explained above), it is interesting to see that he did not get the heaviest sanction. The same article says that the dismissal from office is almost always given when there has been a prosecution, which is not the case here, as mentioned above.

All these sanctions also have repercussions upon:

  • 昇任・しょうにん: promotion
  • 退職金・たいしょくきん: retirement allowance
  • 昇給・しょうきゅう: a rise in salary

All these measures apply at a national level.

Local measures

In addition to the four disciplinary measures mentioned above, each local government has its own regulations or 内規・ないき (internal regulation). The sanctions provided are lighter than the disciplinary measures and consist of:

  • 訓告・くんこく: reprimand
  • 文書、口頭による厳重注意: a written or spoken warning
    • 口頭・こうとう: oral, verbal, spoken
    • 厳重注意・げんじゅうちゅうい: a warning. (I think that this word applies only in this context).

These reprimands have no repercussion on promotion, retirement pay or salary raise.

Finance Minister Taro ASO

Finance Minister Taro ASO gave a press conference this week to communicate the results of the investigation made by the Ministry. I can’t say how many articles came out about it, I was completely lost, and I didn’t know which ones I should read.

During the press conference, Aso communicated the different sanctions that will apply and added that he would hand back the equivalent of one year salary, if I understood correctly the sentence “麻生太郎財務相は閣僚給与1年分(約170万円)を自主返納すると表明。” (source) I don’t understand what 閣僚給与 means, but my guess is that Aso will renounce the salary as Finance Minister and not as Deputy Prime Minister (he has the two functions), but I can’t be sure because 閣僚・かくりょう simply means “a cabinet member”.

Anyway, what I found interesting, as usual, is the Mainichi editorial: 森友文書改ざんの調査結果 居座った財務相の不実さ.

This article insists several times on the fact that Finance Minister Taro ASO should resign:

“当然ながら麻生太郎副総理兼財務相の引責辞任が不可欠である.”

  • 引責辞任・いんせきじにん: taking responsibility by resigning
  • 不可欠・ふかけつ: indispensable

“麻生氏は「進退については考えていない」といったが、財務省を監督する立場として今回の不祥事の責任を取らない方がおかしい.”

  • 不祥事・ふしょうじ: scandal

“これほど重大な不祥事を引き起こしておいて、政治家がだれも責任を取らないということでは、政治道徳の堕落につながる.”

  • 引き起こす・ひきおこす: cause, lead to, give rise to
  • 道徳・どうとく: morality
  • 堕落・だらく: depravity, degradation

“麻生氏が居座りを決め込むことは国民に対して不誠実であり、政治不信に拍車をかけるだけだ.”

I knew that Aso said “セクハラ罪という罪はない” about the recent sexual harassment case, but I didn’t know that he also said “いわゆる改ざんといった悪質なものではない”, talking about the falsification of documents in the Moritomo Gakuen scandal.

How it all started

I understood that this whole affair of concealed and falsified documents started because of a key statement from Abe. Last year in February, Abe said that, should it be proven that he or his wife were involved in the Moritomo Gakuen discount sale, he would resign.

As a consequence, officials have looked into the documents, looking for references made to Abe’s wife, who was named honorary principal of the school. With the result that the passages naming Abe’s wife have been falsified.

However, as we can learn in this article, Aso denied that Abe’s statement was the starting point of the falsification: “首相答弁が問題行為のきっかけになったわけではない.”

When asked about what he means by “悪質ではない” when talking about falsification, he answered “横領とか金を取ったとかいうことがないと、悪質とは言い難いとの見解を持っていた.”

  • 横領・おうりょう: misappropriation

Falsifying documents is “tolerable”??

In a report published by the Ministry of Finance, the way officials handled the documents is generously described as tolerable or even appropriate:

“同省が4日公表した調査報告書からは、幹部が改ざんを「許容範囲」と捉えていたことや、残っていた記録を保存期間が過ぎていることを理由に問題発覚後に廃棄したことを「適切な管理」とみていたことが明らかになった.”

They say that falsifying the documents was still in the 許容範囲・きょようはんい, that is to say, inside a tolerable level. Getting rid of documents was “appropriate” given that the conversation period was over.

The report underlines the fact that the documents should not have gone out of the ministry and made public. As a consequence, falsifying them was acceptable. Saying this is already shocking, in my humble opinion, but the report goes further and justifies the falsification by finding reasons why doing it was the right thing to do:

  1. 決裁に必要のない情報が多く含まれる
    • the documents contained a lot of information that was not necessary
  2. 虚偽内容は追加しておらず、決裁の本質的な内容は変わらない
    • officials didn’t add any untruth contents and the essence of the document didn’t change
      • 虚偽・きょぎ: falsehood, untruth
      • 本質・ほんしつ: essence, real substance, true nature, essential qualities
  3. 連日の国会対応などで職員が疲弊しており、議論の材料を増やしたくない
    • Given that the officials were exhausted with continuously having to respond to the Diet, they didn’t want to increase the number of documents that would lead to controversy (discussion)
      • 疲弊・ひへい: exhausted
  4. 決裁権限を持つ職員による本質的な内容を変えない範囲での書き換え
    • It was just a “re-writing” made by officials that are entitled to make official records and the re-writing did not alter the true nature of the contents.

If I may add a personal comment, are they seriously saying that they messed up with official documents to avoid adding burden on exhausted officials? I must be mistaken… but I can’t see how to translate point 3 otherwise…

小泉進次郎: “おかしい.”

As a newcomer in Japan politics, I first heard the name Shinjiro KOIZUMI (小泉 進次郎・こいずみ しんじろう) last week. His name appeared in a survey. People were asked who they think would be suitable to be the next head of the LDP. Koizumi’s name was ranked second, behind Shigeru ISHIBA but before Shinzo ABE.

Source: 「モリカケやっぱりおかしい」 特別委設置求める

When asked about the Moritomo and Kake scandals, Koizumi replied: “やっぱりおかしいじゃないか。だったらやっぱり(国会に)特別委とかを立ち上げていただいて.”

Koizumi finds all this おかしい and asks for a 特別委・とくべつい. This is an abbreviation for 特別委員会・とくべついいんかい, which means something like “special committee”. This would make sense because I read on Wikipedia that, while a committee is a “body of one or more persons that is subordinate to a deliberative assembly”, a special committee is “established to accomplish a particular task or to oversee a specific area in need of control or oversight.”

Koizumi wishes a special committee to be established to discuss the “morikake” problems.

Concerning the Kake Gakuen scandal, Ehime Prefecture came out with a document stating that Abe met the head of Kake Gakuen in 2015 and knew about the project. Later, Kake Gakuen said that they communicated false information to the Prefecture and that they made up a meeting that never took place. About this, Koizumi says: “どう考えたって愛媛県にうそをついているのはおかしい。むしろ与党から委員会を設置してくれということが真の行政監視だ.”

  • 監視・かんし: surveillance, monitoring

Last word

I may have missed other important information about the Moritomo developments because there were so many articles to read that I ended up picking some randomly…

I am glad it’s the weekend!

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