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Japan PM Suga coached on how to use social media to connect with public

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is seen at the prime minister's office in Tokyo on Jan. 21, 2021. (Mainichi/Kan Takeuchi)

TOKYO -- Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga sought advice from his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)'s online media expert over how to utilize social media in better passing on his messages to the public.

    Suga met Taro Yamada, acting director of the LDP's Internet Media Division, and others at the prime minister's office on Jan. 24. After Yamada coached Suga over how to deliver messages through Twitter and other social media platforms, among other techniques, Suga reportedly said, "That was helpful."

    According to Yamada, who spoke to reporters after the meeting, the coaching was given at the request of Suga. "He (the prime minister) was distressed over how to disseminate policy measures and other matters, so I provided detailed explanations over those methods," Yamada said.

    In regards to the Twitter posts made by the prime minister and his office, Yamada told Suga, "They are just conveying the facts matter-of-factly. Unless the posts come with a passion, they won't spread." In response, Suga reportedly said, "I understand well."

    Amid the surging spread of coronavirus infections across Japan, the government has been finding it hard to get its messages across to the public, including the prime minister's requests to younger generations to change their behavior.

    Recently, Suga's comment during a press conference on Jan. 13 sparked widespread speculation over social media that it "referred to a review of the universal health insurance system." Regarding this, Yamada explained to Suga the mechanism of how one's comments can get across in a twisted way over social media. "I explained to him (Suga) about how he should manage information and how he needs to respond to matters over the internet, instead of having the chief Cabinet secretary try to get things under control the following day," Yamada said.

    While giving advice, the LDP official showed Suga's own Twitter posts and other sources to him. "The prime minister appeared fairly interested, saying, 'I see. These kinds of posts can surely be misunderstood.' So his way of dispatching information, especially on the internet, may change from now on," Yamada commented.

    (Japanese original by Tadashi Sano, Political News Department)

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