Influential J-Pop talent agency Johnny & Associates actively covered up sexual abuse and harassment by the firm’s deceased founder, and its current President Julie Keiko Fujishima should resign, an independent investigation concluded in a report released Tuesday.
(Bloomberg) — Influential J-Pop talent agency Johnny & Associates actively covered up sexual abuse and harassment by the firm’s deceased founder, and its current President Julie Keiko Fujishima should resign, an independent investigation concluded in a report released Tuesday.
The report was written by a “prevention team” assembled by the talent agency in late May, after reports of sexual abuse of aspiring performers by founder Johnny Kitagawa began to resurface in local media. The panel consisted of three people, including former public prosecutor Makoto Hayashi and psychiatrist Nozomu Asukai, and was supported by six lawyers at Anderson Mori & Tomotsune.
The panel confirmed decades of harassment, noting that between the early 1970s and mid-2010s, many artists at the agency were victims of sexual abuse by Kitagawa. He died in 2019 at 87.
It also cited “the adverse effects of family management” as the biggest cause of “governance failure” at the firm, and said Fujishima, who is Kitagawa’s niece, must resign.
Johnny’s declined to comment immediately on the findings of the report.
“This report could set a standard for what should happen if something similar occurs again in the entertainment industry,” said Atsushi Shiraki, an associate professor of law at the University of the Ryukyus. From here on, “as soon as there are allegations in the media, there may be investigations.”
Fujishima issued an apology in May, particularly to those saying they were abused, after the BBC released a documentary featuring several artists who said they were victims of Kitagawa’s actions. According to a newly formed support group that represents several victims and their families, the founder abused some aspiring talents as young as 8 years old.
Read More: Former J-Pop Idols-in-Training Seek New Law on Child Sex Abuse
The case has sparked calls to change Japan’s laws on child abuse, child sexual abuse, and consent. The current law defines child abuse as an action committed by a person with parental authority.
Kauan Okamoto and Yasushi Hashida, former aspiring pop stars who say they were abused by Kitagawa, have called for further legal protection over child sex abuses by expanding its definition to include cases committed by non-parental figures.
Read More: UN Rights Team Says Japan Should Do More to Stop Child Abuse
Earlier this year, the parliament raised the legal age of consent from 13 to 16.
“It’s difficult to prevent the sort of sexual abuse conducted by Mr. Kitagawa with revisions in the general child abuse law,” said Shiraki. “We need a national response to protecting underage talent in the entertainment industry.”
(Updates with expert comments)
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