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About The Asian reporter. (Portland, Or.) 1991-current | View Entire Issue (Aug. 15, 2016)
ASIA / PACIFIC
Page 16 n THE ASIAN REPORTER
August 15, 2016
Who is Naruhito, Japan’s
likely next emperor?
By Mari Yamaguchi
The Associated Press
OKYO — Japanese Emperor Akihito’s recent
video message, though subtle, suggested that he
wishes to abdicate, and the attention now goes to
his elder son, the first in line to Japan’s Chrysanthemum
In his 10-minute recorded message, Akihito primarily
cited his old age and concerns that it may become difficult
for him to fulfill his duties, but some palace watchers say a
hidden reason for his desired abdication might be his
Like his father, Naruhito is a soft-spoken and smiley
man. A bit stocky at age 56, he’s married to a
Harvard-educated former diplomat, Masako, who has
been ill for more than a decade and seldom appears in
public. But she is better known abroad and his presence is
often eclipsed whenever she comes out.
Having a father who has tried to break down Japan’s
ancient imperial traditions to bring his cloistered family
closer to the nation, Naruhito was raised as a new breed of
royals who grew up in a family seen as a model for the
nation. His name in Chinese characters means a person
with heavenly virtues.
His mother, Michiko, the first commoner to become
empress, helped to bring in fresh changes to the palace in
child-rearing and education. The couple eliminated a wet
nurse for Naruhito, born February 23, 1960, and his two
younger siblings. When they went on official trips and left
Naruhito behind, they handed his nannies a list of rules
for the then-prince in what was known as a “Naru-chan
Kempo,” or “Constitution.”
Naruhito attended Gakushuin, a private school for
former aristocrats. After graduating from college, he
studied at Oxford University, living in a dorm for two
years for the first time while earning a master’s degree in
Thames River water transport systems.
An avid hiker, skier, and viola player, Naruhito first
met Harvard-educated diplomat Masako Owada at a
party in 1986, but it took him eight years of waiting and
two rejections before he won her heart in what is
remembered as a modern-day royal romance.
Their marriage raised expectations of adding a modern
face to imperial institutions, but Masako is still
recovering from stress-induced mental conditions she
developed after giving birth to their daughter, following
criticism that she had failed to produce a boy.
The succession law allows only male emperors, so
Naruhito’s only child, Aiko, 14, cannot inherit the throne.
Instead, his younger brother Akishino, 50, is second in
line, and Akishino’s son Hisahito, age nine, is third.
Discussions on changing the law to allow female
KOREAN COMPLICATIONS. South Korean gymnast Lee Eun-ju,
right, and her North Korean counterpart, Hong Un Jong, pose together for
photographers during the artistic gymnastics women’s qualification at the
2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Like dozens of athletes
at the Rio Games, some competitors from North and South Korea have
posed together for grinning selfies, which have then been posted to social
media and documented by some of the hundreds of journalists. The inter-
actions are not strictly illegal in South Korea, but they are complicated by
the long history of animosity and bloodshed between the countries. (Kim
Do-hoon/Yonhap via AP)
Even Olympic selfies are
complicated by Koreas’ rivalry
By Foster Klug
The Associated Press
IO DE JANEIRO — Nothing is ever easy for the
rival Koreas, even that most ubiquitous and usu-
ally innocent of Olympic interactions, the selfie.
Like dozens of athletes at the Rio Games, gymnasts
Hong Un Jong of North Korea and Lee Eun-ju of South
Korea met on the sidelines during competition and
The 17-year-old Lee, who is at her first Olympics, posed
for a smiling selfie with Hong, a 27-year-old veteran. That
friendly encounter and others between the two were
captured by journalists — and immediately took on larger
significance for two countries still technically at war.
Such meetings are not illegal in South Korea, but they
are complicated by the two countries’ long history of
animosity and bloodshed.
Hong became the first female gymnast from North
Korea to win a gold medal in 2008, when Lee was nine
years old and living in her native Japan. Lee moved to
South Korea in 2013 because her Korean father wanted
her to learn more about the country’s culture.
A few days after the selfie was taken, Lee and Hong met
again while on the floor at the same time during
preliminary competition. Lee was eliminated, while Hong
finished sixth in the vault competition.
International Olympic Committee president Thomas
Bach described the Koreans’ selfie as a “great gesture.”
“Fortunately, we see quite a few of these gestures here
during the Olympic games,” Bach said.
Photos of their warm moments delighted many South
Koreans and provided a rare note of concord in otherwise
abysmal relations between the rivals. It is unclear if the
gymnasts’ interaction was seen in the North, an
authoritarian state with extremely limited press freedom
and where access to outside media is usually blocked.
The Korean Peninsula is still technically in a state of
war because there has been no peace treaty signed to
officially end the 1950-1953 Korean War. Nearly 30,000
U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea as a deterrent
against North Korea, and the neighbors regularly trade
insults and warnings of war, including recent threats
from the North of missile strikes on Seoul and its ally,
A web of laws, most leftover from the days when the
South was ruled by a dictatorship, govern how South
Koreans are supposed to interact with North Koreans.
Travel and communication are severely restricted; even
praising the North is illegal in the South.
South Koreans are required by law to obtain
government permission for any planned meeting,
communication, or other contact with North Koreans.
This requirement is waived for spontaneous
interactions with North Koreans that can happen during
foreign travel, like the Olympics. But South Koreans must
still provide an account of what happened to the South
Korean Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean
issues, within seven days, according to the ministry.
So while it’s OK for South Korean athletes to talk to the
North Koreans they meet at the Olympics, they must later
submit reports about the encounters to their Olympic
committee, which will then pass the information to the
These brief, friendly moments between North and
South Korean athletes at the Olympics may not seem to be
Continued on page 13
NEW BREED OF ROYAL. Japan’s Crown Prince Naruhito plays
the viola during a concert of the Gakushuin University alumni in Tokyo,
in this July 7, 2013 file photo. Emperor Akihito’s recent video message,
though subtle, conveyed his wish to abdicate, and the attention now goes
to his elder son Naruhito, the first in line to Japan’s Chrysanthemum
throne. Naruhito would be the 126th emperor in a line believed to
date to the fifth century. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi, Pool, File)
succession ended with Hisahito’s birth.
For more than a decade, Naruhito has mostly travelled
alone while performing his traditional duties, unlike his
father, who is almost always with his wife by his side. This
raises a question as to whether Masako can do even part of
the work Michiko has done as empress.
Palace watchers and experts say Akihito wants to
abdicate possibly to help smooth the transition, rather
than waiting until the last minute to burden his son with
such a heavy immediate responsibility.
Naruhito would be the 126th emperor in a line believed
to date to the fifth century.
The emperor is a purely symbolic figure today, with no
political power. Akihito is known as a strong proponent of
Japan’s war-renouncing constitution, repeatedly showing
support for the charter, which stipulates his symbol
“(Akihito) reflects obviously the mistakes and the errors
made earlier on in his father’s (Hirohito’s) reign,” said
Robert Campbell, a University of Tokyo professor who is
an expert of Japanese history and culture. “That’s
something I think everyone hopes will be carried on into
his son’s reign.”