Koizumi Cabinet E-mail Magazine No. 149 (July 22, 2004)
[Lion Heart -- Message from Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi]
Torrential rains in Niigata, Fukushima and Fukui Prefectures have wreaked significant damage, with the collapse of embankments leaving many houses submerged in water and blanketed in mud.
On Monday July 19, I visited areas of Niigata Prefecture that were severely affected to see for myself the mud-covered houses and survey the machinery and products at factories now useless due to the inundation. The actual conditions were worse than the images that have appeared on television.
I offer my sincere condolences for those who lost their lives in this disaster. I would also like to offer my heartfelt encouragement to those who are still suffering from the effects of the torrential rains.
The government has dispatched an emergency disaster rescue team and Self-Defense Force personnel to provide assistance to those people affected. On my visit to Niigata I learned that over a thousand volunteers from all over Japan had gathered there and it warmed my heart to see these selfless volunteers toiling in the mud as they provided the much needed assistance.
Being aware that restoration operations are no easy task, the central government will work together with the prefectural and the municipal governments, making utmost efforts to reconstruct the disaster zone without delay and assist the people who have suffered from the damage caused.
It is most regrettable that despite the disaster prevention measures taken on a daily basis, a disaster on this scale has occurred. It especially pains and concerns me that many elderly were among the victims of this disaster.
This experience underlines that while disaster prevention is certainly important, we also have to ready ourselves against such once-in-a-century disasters as these torrential rains. We must therefore carefully analyze our experiences this time round, including evacuation procedures, and give full consideration to measures that will prevent such adversity from recurring.
Since yesterday I have been on Cheju Island located southwest of the Korean Peninsula and west of the Goto Islands of Nagasaki Prefecture. This island is covered with rolling green hills, surrounded by azure seas, with white clouds floating in the clear blue sky, and I spotted a mountain that reminds me of Mt. Fuji from the hotel garden. This island is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Republic of Korea, and apparently 100,000 Japanese tourists also visit here annually.
In this idyllic natural environment, President Roh Moo Hyun of the Republic of Korea and I dispensed with neck ties to discuss in a frank and friendly atmosphere various topics, including how our two countries can further and even more closely cooperate for peace and stability in Asia.
With regard to the issue of North Korea, it is the case that Japan, the Republic of Korea and the United States all share the understanding that the nuclear issue must be resolved in a peaceful manner. Although there are some differences in the stances of the countries, I believe we all must cooperate and work with one another to achieve this common goal.
Japan-Republic of Korea relations are becoming ever closer in a broad range of areas, including culture, arts and sports. The Korean movies "Silmido" and "Brotherhood" as well as the TV drama series "Winter Sonata" have proved popular in Japan while the Japanese movie "Love Letter" is popular in the Republic of Korea. Increasingly, Korean people are choosing Japan as a destination for golf and hot springs holidays.
Forty years ago, the annual number of tourists between Japan and the Republic of Korea stood at 10,000. That number has risen to 3.6 million tourists per year, which equates to a number now of 10,000 tourists per day.
Next year will mark the 40th anniversary of the normalization of relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea. With the intention of further developing the friendly relations between the two countries in commemoration of this milestone, there are various projects and events planned for 2005.
With the aim of strengthening our bilateral relations, President Roh and I have agreed to meet freely and frequently, visiting each other. Given the many pleasant locations in Japan outside Tokyo, I am planning on having our next meeting sometime this year in a relaxing atmosphere such as a hot spring resort where we will be able to unwind and talk together.
This year, we are experiencing a summer of unprecedented heat, with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius. Although I am not a fan of air conditioning, I am finding it difficult to sleep without an air conditioner at the moment.
The best way to prevent being overcome by the summer heat is to get enough sleep and eat healthy foods. I hope that you all take care of yourselves and take due precautions over the hot summer.
* The title of this column "Lion Heart" is a reference to the Prime Minister's lion-like hairstyle and his unbending determination to advance structural reform.
- Japan-Republic of Korea Summit Meeting (July 21, 2004)
- Prime Minister Visits Affected Areas in Niigata Prefecture by
Heavy Rains (July 19, 2004)
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