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Messages from "Economic Trend", February 2006

Japan as "Ethical" and Technological Power

Mitsuo Ohashi
Co-Chairman of Committee on Asia & Oceania, Nippon Keidanren
Representative Director and Chairman of the Board of Directors, Showa Denko K.K.

The terrifying night that I spent in a bomb shelter as Tokyo sustained a major air raid. The difficulty in obtaining food after the end of the war when I had to appease my hunger with poor meals of flour dumplings in soup. Memories of that miserable state of Japan 60 years ago still haunt me.

Today Japan is an "economic power" and has been called that way for many years, despite the collapse of the bubble economy and the worst postwar recession it has gone through. It is astonishing, however, that the Japanese people have lost moral sense in exchange for affluence in material. To recover that moral sense should be the top and urgent priority for our nation.

The issue of corporate ethics has been raised in recent years and lively discussions are going on about the concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR). However, we should consider the matter from the viewpoint of Japanese society as a whole. I am sure the ethics problem has resulted from the nation's failure to teach everyone to fulfill his/her obligations to society, which I call "personal social responsibility" (PSR).

Each member of Japanese society must earnestly tackle this task, taking every opportunity that may arise at one's home, school or workplace. We in the business world should take the initiative in encouraging each employee to conduct business affairs to the highest ethical standards. This will not only serve the national interest but also lead to prosperity of respective corporations.

There can be various methods for achieving that end. After all, however, it is a matter of establishing a corporate culture in which employees are convinced that no unethical conduct whatsoever is tolerated in the corporations they belong to.

With limited territory, population and natural resources and no possibility of becoming a military power, it is not easy for Japan to strengthen its presence in the world: particularly in Asia, which is very important for Japan in the 21st century.

Nevertheless, the goals we should pursue are obvious.

First, Japan must lead the world in the development of technologies that will give benefit to all mankind, becoming a "technological power."

Secondly--this is the point I want to stress in this article--, Japan must establish itself as a model of keen sense of morality, becoming an "ethical power."

I believe Japan will be able to earn the respect and trust of international society in the true sense of the word only after accomplishing these two goals.

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