Political corruption seems to be more pervasive in Japan than in otherdemocracies. Since the mid-1970s, more than 20 major corruption scandalsmade domestic or international headlines. Demands for a thorough reformof the political system grew stronger with each incident, but no noticeableaction worth mentioning followed. Since the early 1990s, however, the issuesof quote;money politicsquote; (kinken seiji) and corruption have dominatedpublic debate in Japan, and in 1993 the LDP was ousted after nearly fourdecades of government by a coalition of parties running on the promiseof reform. To gain a better understanding of what this process of politicalreform is about and to enable an assessment of the measures taken, onehas to examine why corruption is so common in Japanese politics and whichaspects of the political system have encouraged its occurrence. The talkstarts from this point. After a look at Japan’s political culture, specialattention is given to structural elements of the political system. Thefocus will be on the impact of informal relationships on political decision-makingand on the issue of political finance. Based on these findings, an assessmentof the reforms passed in 1994 will be undertaken.
Verena BLECHINGER is a research associate at the German Institute forJapanese Studies (DIJ) and the author of a study on political corruptionin Japan (quote;Politische Korruption in Japan. Ursachen, Hintergründeund Reformversuchequote;. Hamburg: Mitteilungen des Instituts fürAsienkunde 1998).