Sunday 9/27/20
JAPAN

Karate black belt Yoshihide Suga becomes Japan's new prime minsiter

He is a teetotaler and has a sweet tooth, especially liking pancakes.
Former prime minister Shinzo Abe (L), presents a bouquet of flowers to his successor Yoshihide Suga. Photo: Pool/dpa.
Former prime minister Shinzo Abe (L), presents a bouquet of flowers to his successor Yoshihide Suga. Photo: Pool/dpa.

Yoshihide Suga, known as one of his predecessor Shinzo Abe's right-hand men, has become Japan’s new prime minister after he was approved at the Japanese parliament.

Suga, who won an overwhelming victory in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s leadership race on Monday, pledged to continue Abe’s policies, including his 'Abenomics' economic policy, but he first has to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic fallout.

Suga was a low-key lawmaker in the House of Representatives until Abe appointed him as a top government spokesman in December 2012, officially known as the chief cabinet secretary.

In April 2019, ahead of the imperial succession of Japan’s new emperor, Naruhito, Suga became the focus of public attention as the chief cabinet secretary played a huge role in announcing the name of the new era - Reiwa - by holding up a board with the characters on it.

Because of the role, Suga was dubbed as 'Uncle Reiwa.'

Suga has also served as minister in charge of the issue of the US military presence on Okinawa and of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and the 1980s. However, little progress has been made on either issue under Abe’s government.

Like Abe, Suga has expressed regret that the government has yet to resolve the abduction issue.

Suga, who does not have a diplomatic or economic background, said Japan’s consumption tax "will have to be raised" even after Abe’s government already doubled the tax to 10%.

But he later said he would not raise it further in the next decade.

Suga, first elected in 1996, is an eight-term lawmaker who was tapped as minister of internal affairs and communications during Abe’s first term from 2006 to 2007.

Strawberry farmer

Unlike many top lawmakers in the LDP, Suga is not from a political family. He does not belong to any faction, either.

Born the eldest son of a strawberry farmer in the northern prefecture of Akita, Suga was reluctant to join the family business upon high school graduation. He then moved to Tokyo and got a job at a cardboard box company.

Suga entered Hosei University in Tokyo, majoring in law, as he paid his way to school.

At 26, Suga decided to devote his life to politics and started working as an aide to House of Representatives lawmaker Hikosaburo Okonogi, who served as construction minister and trade and industry minister.

In 1987, Suga was elected as a member of Yokohama city assembly and served two terms.

Suga, a karate black belt holder, does 100 sit-ups every morning to keep fit.

He is a teetotaler and has a sweet tooth, especially liking pancakes.

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