Japan finance official denies sexual misconduct allegation

2018-04-19 18:58
Japan's former vice finance Minister Junichi Fukuda, centre, leaves his ministry in Tokyo after submitting his resignation following sexual misconduct allegations. (Yoshitaka Sugawara, Kyodo News via AP)

Japan's former vice finance Minister Junichi Fukuda, centre, leaves his ministry in Tokyo after submitting his resignation following sexual misconduct allegations. (Yoshitaka Sugawara, Kyodo News via AP)

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Japan's vice finance minister denied sexual misconduct allegations against him on Thursday and challenged a TV station's report that its employee was a victim.

Junichi Fukuda announced his resignation on Wednesday, citing difficulty carrying out his duties amid escalating criticism and attention on him since the allegations surfaced a week ago. He denied making sexually suggestive remarks after TV Asahi identified the victim as one of its female employees.

The Weekly Shincho magazine published sexually suggestive remarks that Fukuda allegedly made to an unidentified female reporter in her 30s. The magazine released parts of what it said was an audio recording of Fukuda's remarks, alleging that he routinely made similar comments to female reporters in private conversations.

On Thursday, Fukuda told reporters that his comments were taken out of context. "You should be able to tell it's not sexual harassment if you examine the whole (conversation)," he said.

Fukuda said he was "not aware of making any remark that could be taken as sexual harassment".

In the alleged conversation, the man described as Fukuda says "I want to kiss you" and repeatedly asks questions such as, "Can I touch your breasts?" and "Can I tie your hands?"

The magazine defended its reporting and released a follow-up story on Thursday with more details of Fukuda's allegedly obscene talk, but without identifying the victim.

Lacking sensitivity to the matter

Fukuda's case is the latest embarrassment for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's embattled government that has been stung by cronyism and other scandals. A scandal at one at Japan's most powerful ministries could be especially damaging.

The Finance Ministry has triggered an outrage over its insensitive crisis management after it urged the alleged victim to come forward and report to a panel of ministry-commissioned lawyers so they can hear both sides and determine whether there was sexual misconduct. Women's rights groups, lawmakers and media groups accused the investigators of lacking sensitivity and privacy awareness.

Finance Minister Taro Aso has come under attack over his lax oversight of Fukuda and the rest of the ministry whose credibility has been shaken by a questionable state land sale linked to Abe's wife and massive alterations of official documents related to the deal. Another top finance official has resigned and a third official related to the deal committed a suicide.

Abe himself faces another scandal involving alleged favourable treatment given to a friend who opened a veterinary college, and accusations of mishandling of documents at the Finance Ministry and several other departments.

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Read more on:    japan  |  sexual harassment allegations

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