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Koizumi Junichiro (小泉 純一郎) (born January 8, 1942) is a Japanese politician and the current Prime Minister. The alternative spellings include "Koizumi Jyunichiro" and other notations with reversed order.
He was born in Yokosuka City, Kanagawa prefecture to Junya Koizumi, a director general of the Defense Agency and a second-generation Diet member, and was educated at Yokosuka High School and Keio University, where he studied economics. He was briefly at the University of London before returning to Japan in December 1969 on the death of his father.
After a failed attempt to get elected he did become a member of the Lower House for the 11th Kanagawa Prefecture in December 1972. He was a member of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and joined the Fukuda faction, he has been re-elected ten times. He became in 1992 Minister of Posts and Telecommunnications under the hovernement of Miyazawa Kiichi. He was three times Minister of Health and welfare under the governement of Takeshita Noboru, Uno Sosuke and Hashimoto Ryutaro.
He gained his first senior post in 1979 as Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Finance and his first ministerial post in 1988 as Minister of Health and Welfare under Noboru Takeshita. He had cabinet posts again in 1992 and 1996-1998. In 1994, with the LDP in opposition, he became part of a new LDP faction, Shinseiki, made up of younger and more motivated parliamentarians.
He competed for the presidency of the LDP in September 1995 and July 1999, but he gained little support losing decisively to Ryutaro Hashimoto and then Keizo Obuchi. In April 2000 Obuchi was replaced by Mori Yoshiro after falling seriously ill. Koizumi became leader of his party on his third attempt on April 24, 2001. He had 298 votes, while his closest rival, Ryutaro Hashimoto gained 155 votes, Koizumi's victory was due to local chapters being allowed to vote as well as Diet members. He was made Prime Minister on April 26, 2001. His coalition secured 78 of 121 seats in the Upper House elections in July.
He was initially a extremely popular leader with his outspoken nature and colourful past. He pushed for new ways to revitalise the moribund economy, aiming to act against bad debts with commercial banks, privatise the postal savings system, and reorganise the factional structure of the LDP. He spoke of the need for a period of painful restructuring in order to improve the future. However there was strong opposition to his reform plans within the LDP and the bureaucracy and little reform has occurred and the economy has remained in recession, "moribund". He sacked his Foreign Minister Tanaka Makiko in January 2002, replacing her with Kawaguchi Yoriko and since then his approval rating has been in steady decline.
His liberal credentials with the rest of Asia were damaged by a controversial visit to the Yasukuni Shrine on August 13, 2001. He also approved the expansion of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) and in October 2001 they were given greater scope to operate outside of the country.
On January 1, 2004, Koizumi made a surprise New Year's vist to the Yasukuni Shrine. It was his fourth visit to the shrine since becoming Prime Minister. Again, the visit drew strong condemnation and protests from Japan's neighbors, mainly China and North and South Korea, who still hold bitter memories of Japanese wartime atrocities. The event holds even greater significance than previous visits in light of the imminent dispatch of Self-Defense Forces troops to Iraq.
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