Mon, Feb 28, 2005 - Page 3 News List

For Koo, the outsider's role is a natural one

By Lindy Yeh  /  STAFF REPORTER

Born in 1926, Koo Kwang-ming was the youngest son of Koo Hsien-rong (辜顯榮), one of the most powerful and richest businessmen and politicians during the Japanese colonial era. His mother was one of his father's five wives, a Japanese woman named Yoshiko Iwase.

In 1944, Koo entered National Taiwan University's department of political science and later became the chairman of the students' association. Since he was deeply involved in the student movement, he had to flee to Hong Kong after the 228 Incident. His prolonged absence from class led to his expulsion from the university. He lived in exile in Japan until 1971 when he was invited to come back home for a meeting with then vice premier Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國).

He never allied himself with the KMT regime and continued to sponsor pro-independence forces overseas. He joined the DPP in 1996 together with his life-long comrade Peng Ming-min (彭明敏) when Peng was running for the presidency under the DPP's banner against Lee.

Jeffery Koo's son Jeffrey Koo, Jr. (辜仲諒) once described the family members' political stances as "one country on each side."

"In my family, the situation of `one country on each side' has existed for long time. My eighth grand uncle [Koo Kwang-ming] and my grandma [Koo Yen Pi-hsia (辜顏碧霞)] support the DPP, while my fifth grand uncle [Koo Cheng-fu] and the rest of us support the KMT," he was quoted as saying by Next magazine.

Politically Koo Kwang-ming and Koo Cheng-fu were like people from two different countries who did not speak the same language.

Koo Kwang-ming said that during last year's presidential election campaign, he urged his brother to come out publicly in support of Chen to help boost the economy.

"Since my brother was an economic expert, I told him for that for the sake of stability, it was better that Chen be re-elected. How could we improve our economy if the government changed every four years?" he said.

Koo Cheng-fu allegedly said he would think about it. But 10 days before the election, when Koo Kwan-ming asked his brother for his answer, he was disappointed.

"He told me it was also good that KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) be elected," Koo Kwang-ming said. " My pals all told me don't waste my time trying to persuade my brother politically. It's simply hopeless."

One piece of common ground between the brothers was defending their father's name. The controversy over Koo Hsien-rong's move to open door of the Taipei city gate for Japanese troops to enter the city in 1895 is a topic that preoccupies the entire family.

On the eve of Koo Cheng-fu's meeting with his Chinese counterpart Wang Daohan (汪道涵) in 1993, Chen, then a legislator, questioned Koo Cheng-fu in the legislature, asking if he would behave like his father who had introduced the Japanese into Taipei and betrayed the Taiwanese.

Koo Kwang-ming was so irritated by Chen's question that he called a press conference at the legislature the very next day to rebuff Chen's accusation.

After the Treaty of Shimonoseki was signed and the Chinese governor, Tang Ching-sung (唐景崧), headed back to China, "Taipei was in chaos, because the Chinese soldiers suddenly became bandits. The people longed for order. My father was pushed to guide the Japanese troops into the city to help maintain order," Koo Kwang-ming said.

His wife Michelle Wang (王美琇), who is 32 years his junior, describes her husband as "a boat sailing against the wind."

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