The Japanese word “baka” basically means foolish, stupid. But it is also used to indicate an extreme amount of something.

Thus, “bakajikara,” a combination of baka and “chikara” (power), means enormous power, while “bakawarai,” baka prefixed to “warai” (laugh), is a fierce laugh.

Baka can also carry a connotation of going against common sense. One typical example is “bakashojiki,” baka attached to “shojiki” (honesty), which means being honest to a fault.

Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso was probably too honest when he said the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s landslide victory in the Oct. 22 Lower House election was “thanks to North Korea.”

“Obviously, (the victory) was partly thanks to North Korea and the various people who have various opinions,” said Aso, who also serves as finance minister, four days after the election.

Aso’s words sound only like a confession, made inadvertently, that the ruling party actually welcomed and exploited the tense situation surrounding North Korea’s arms programs.

Saying that it was like exposing a trick would belie the fact that the LDP tried to use the North Korea situation for electoral gain in a glaringly obvious manner.

You have only to remember the hyperbole Prime Minister Shinzo Abe used to explain dissolving the Lower House for a snap election. He billed it as “a dissolution to ride through a national crisis.”

Additionally, in his campaign speeches, Abe frequently stressed his intention to ramp up pressure on North Korea.

Aso played ball with Abe. Referring to hypothetical situations such as a military conflict involving North Korea, Aso said, “We will have to brace ourselves for a massive wave of refugees.” He added they “might be armed refugees.”

One term that has wide currency in South Korea’s political community is a “north wind.” It refers to a factor related to North Korea that has huge implications for politics in South Korea.

In 1992, an espionage network working for Pyongyang in South Korea was busted shortly before a South Korean presidential election.

It is said that the exposure of North Korean spies contributed to the victory of Kim Young-sam, a conservative candidate, in the presidential election.

Confronting and responding to an existing crisis and trying to stir up a sense of crisis are as different as cheese and chalk.

I pray and hope with all my heart that political exploitation of a north wind will not become the norm in Japan’s political community.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 29

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.