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Angelenos Stunned At Assassination of Shinzo Abe, Who Attended USC In The '70s

Shinzo Abe smiles as he wears a black, USC letterman jacket emblazoned with his name.
Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tried on a letterman jacket presented to him by former USC President C. L. Max Nikias as a gift during his visit to the campus on May 2, 2015.
(Gus Ruelas
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News of Friday’s assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent shocks throughout the world, including here in Los Angeles, where Abe was a student in the 1970’s.

Abe was giving a speech in the city of Nara when he was shot twice, according to media reports. Police have taken into custody a 41-year-old man, who they say had a gun that appeared to be homemade.

Abe had a special connection with Angelenos, in part, because he attended USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy for three semesters from 1978 to 1979. He studied English and took classes in international relations, history and political science, the university said.

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He also revisited the school in 2015, during an official diplomacy tour in the U.S. Saori Katada, a professor of international relations at USC, remembered Abe walking through campus.

“He was going around and looking as though he was very nostalgic about the time he was a student,” Katada said. “I think…the time in the United States, [those] two years, has been one of the most liberating times of his life because he was born in a very prominent political family… and then being here in LA by himself and enjoying his independence.”

USC President Carol Folt also issued a statement, saying members of the university were shocked, sad, and horrified.

“Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family of Prime Minister Abe and all the people of Japan,” the statement read.

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Los Angeles is home to one of the largest Japanese American populations in the country. While Abe was here on his tour, he also attended the Japan-U.S. Economic Forum, spoke to the Asia Society Southern California, and visited the Japanese American National Museum.

During his speech at the Asia Society Southern California, he highlighted that Los Angeles was a beacon for Japanese-American relations, given how many companies are owned by Japanese people.

Ann Burroughs, President and CEO of JANM, said in a statement that Abe was the longest-serving and most prominent political leader in Japan, with strong ties to the U.S.

“It was JANM’s great honor to welcome Prime Minister Abe during his official state visit in 2015, where he acknowledged the special relationship and historic ties between Japan and the Japanese American community,” Burroughs said.

Updated July 8, 2022 at 4:44 PM PDT
This story was updated with additional comment from Saori Katada, a professor of international relations at USC.
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