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Saturday, May 15, 2004

Koizumi didn't pay pension premiums

Staff writer

The list of politicians who have not paid pension premiums found a star addition Friday with the revelation that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi did not make payments for almost seven years.

Koizumi was not a member of the National Pension System for certain times and did not pay premiums during three separate periods between the 1960s and 1980s, according to Isao Iijima, Koizumi's secretary in charge of political affairs. The total nonpayment period is six years and 11 months.

Iijima said that it was not illegal for the prime minister to miss payments during those times.

He said that Koizumi was not a member of the basic pension system for eight months beginning in August 1969, when he returned home from studying in London following the sudden death of his father, Junya.

Iijima said Koizumi was exempt from paying the obligatory premiums at that time because he had been overseas and was thinking of returning there.

But while the legal condition for exemption from the pension system is the registration of a home overseas, Iijima said he has not confirmed where Koizumi was registered as living at that time.

Koizumi ran in a Lower House election in December 1969 to succeed his father -- proof he intended to live in Japan.

The prime minister also did not pay premiums between January and March 1962 while attending a cram school before entering college.

The welfare ministry confirmed that cram school students are not exempt from paying premiums.

Iijima countered that not joining the system was "socially acceptable" for students at that time.

Koizumi also did not pay pension premiums between April 1980 and March 1986. Diet members were not obliged to join the pension system during that time.

Koizumi told reporters Monday that he did not miss any premium payments.

Iijima's spin at Friday's news conference was that reporters only asked whether Koizumi had "nonpayment" periods, and not "nonenrollment" periods when he was not a member of the public pension system.

"I don't bear any political responsibility," Koizumi said Friday night.

Pension panelists failed

Two Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers leading a Diet panel discussing pension reforms were revealed Friday to have not paid their national pension premiums.

The two are Seiichi Eto, chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Health, Labor and Welfare, and panel executive member Jinsen Nagase, their aides said.

Eto did not pay premiums for 11 years and 11 months beginning in February 1990, when he was first elected to the Lower House. Nagase did not pay for five months beginning in August 1995, during which time he was a Diet secretary at the then Health and Welfare Ministry.

The aides quoted the men as saying they misunderstood the national pension program.

"I want to apologize to Japanese citizens. I'll make every effort to revise the national social security system," Eto said, suggesting he will not resign as welfare committee chairman.

A number of ruling bloc and opposition camp politicians, as well as some members of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's Cabinet, have recently revealed they did not pay their premiums. (Kyodo)

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