Nakasone Yasuhiro: Born 1918. A graduate of the University of Tokyo (then Tokyo Imperial University), Nakasone entered the prewar Home Ministry in 1941, but left for military service. He served as a lieutenant commander in the navy from 1941 to 1945, and saw the bombing of Hiroshima from Shikoku.
First elected to the House of Representatives in 1947, he has been reelected in every subsequent election. At 5'9," he is considerably taller than most Japanese his age, and his unusual political style also makes him stand out. As the head of his own faction in the LDP, Nakasone was appointed to his first cabinet post in 1967. He held a succession of posts thereafter, culminating in his rise to prime minister in 1982. As PM, he built up the Self Defense Forces and watered down Japanese textbooks' treatment of the Japanese role in WWII. He stepped to the forefront in international affairs where previous prime ministers had stayed in the shadows; he also fostered close personal ties with President Reagan. He led an assault on established powers throughout Japan, including the privatization of NTT (Nippon Telephone and Telegraph, the Japanese equivalent of AT&T) in March 1985 and concurrent opening of the telecommunications market, and the privatization of Japan National Railways in April 1987. He also attempted to carry out the reforms suggested by the Maekawa Report, which would have reshaped the bureaucracy and weakened his political opponents. He was PM for a surprisingly long time in Japanese politics—5 years—before he was finally forced to resign in October 1987. His successor was Takeshita Noboru, who in turn was forced to resign in 1989 to accept responsibility for the Recruit Scandal.
A key player in the Recruit influence-peddling scandal which rocked the LDP and Japanese politics in 1989, Nakasone testified before the Diet, resigned from the LDP, and resigned from his own faction in May of that year. Although he faced no prosecution and was never imprisoned, he lost most of his power in Japanese politics.
Kim II Sung: (Kim Il-song) Born Kim Song-ju in 1912, Kim was the sole leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea since its founding in September 1948 until his death in 1994. In some ways, he was the spiritual heir of the Yi rulers who closed Korea to the outside, leading the West to call Korea "the Hermit Kingdom." Under Kim's direction, modern North Korea was similarly removed from the outside world, even within the Soviet bloc.
Kim attended school in Manchuria, but his formal education ended in the tenth grade when he was arrested for subversive activities (he had been active in a communist organization). After his release, Kim continued to be active in communist and anti-Japanese movements and joined a Chinese army unit in about 1935. It is thought that he and his guerillas received Soviet training from 1941 to 1945.
In September 1945, Kim went to Korea with Soviet forces. He was picked by the Soviets to lead the Provisional People's Committee in February 1946. In the following competition for power, Kim and his followers prevailed; he was elected to the premiership in September 1948. In an attempt to reunify Korea, Kim ordered the invasion of South Korea in June 1950, which led to the three-year Korean War.
After the war, Kim eliminated his political rivals and cemented his power in place, then carried out plans for the economic recovery of the country. During the great Sino-Soviet rift of the 1960s, he became increasingly independent, aligning with the Chinese in the early 60s and the Soviets in the latter half of the decade. It was also during the sixties that Kim began constructing his personality cult in earnest.
In the 1970s, Kim assented to dialogue with South Korea towards the goal of reunification, but as neither side was willing to compromise, the talks fell apart. It was during this decade that Kim's eldest son, Kim Jong II, came to the forefront as Kim's heir to power. This is another parallel to the Yi, as the elder Kim seems intent on founding his own dynasty.
Kim is said to have created chuch'e, a mix of independence and Marxism-Leninism blended to suit North Korea. He is also credited with the creation of Kim II Sung Thought, otherwise known as the monolithic ideological system. This system preaches ideological self-reliance, economic self-sufficiency, and military self-defense. A prolific writer, Kim's essays and speeches are collected in four editions, each of several (twenty-plus) volumes. Barring any great political change, Kim will be remembered as the "supreme leader" of North Korea long after his death.
Konoe Fumimaro: See Chapter Five
Douglas MacArthur: See Chapter Five
Yoshida Shigeru: 1878-1967. A graduate of both the Peer's School and Tokyo Imperial University, Yoshida entered the Foreign Ministry in 1906. He had a long career as a diplomat, serving primarily in China and Manchuria, but also in London, Rome, and Washington DC. He retired in 1935, but was recalled to duty to serve as Ambassador to Great Britain, his highest position. After being recalled to Japan in 1938, Yoshida stayed out of official posts but remained influential. Since Yoshida had been relatively uninvolved in politics during WWII, Occupation authorities allowed him to serve in the postwar government. In 1945, Yoshida became foreign minister, and worked to increase his influence. Yoshida set up a crucial meeting between the Showa Emperor and MacArthur, after which MacArthur endorsed both the Japanese imperial system and its current monarch.
In April 1946, Yoshida became president of the ruling Liberal Party (predecessor of today's LDP), and accordingly became the next prime minister. He held that post until October 1954, except for May 1947 to October 1948, the only time during the postwar period that the LDP (or its predecessors) did not rule.
During his tenure as prime minister, Yoshida accomplished much, including formulating what is known as "the Yoshida Doctrine." The Yoshida Doctrine made rehabilitation of the Japanese economy a primary goal, and advocated a non-military, pacifist role for Japan in international politics. It also allowed US military bases in Japan for defense. However, Yoshida regarded Japan's return to sovereignty as his greatest achievement. This was attained with the signing of the San Francisco Peace Treaty in September 1951. Ratified in April 1952, it ended the Occupation, renounced Japan's claims to all territories acquired after 1895, and gave Japan the leeway it needed to rebuild its economy. It represented the culmination of Yoshida's diplomatic skills; the negotiations between Yoshida and John Foster Dulles are one of the more fascinating episodes of modern diplomacy. Interpreting the new constitution literally, Yoshida resisted Dulles' exhortations for Japanese rearmament, thus freeing Japan from military involvement in the Cold War and allowing the government to spend its money on more productive programs than defense. Dissent within Japan led to Yoshida's resignation in October 1954. Nonetheless, many of Yoshida's policies remained in force, contributing to Japan's postwar success. He enjoyed the status of a respected elder statesman until his death in 1967.