Japan top bureaucrat escapes censure after sexual harassment

2018-04-13 22:06


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Japan's finance minister has opted not to investigate or punish the ministry's top bureaucrat over allegations he sexually harassed female journalists, saying he has showed sufficient remorse.

The weekly Shukan Shincho magazine this week reported that administrative vice finance minister Junichi Fukuda had sexually harassed a female reporter at a bar, asking to touch her breasts and kiss her.

The magazine said several other female reporters also reported being sexually harassed by Fukuda, who asked to kiss them and to take them to a hotel.

The row comes as the government faces twin cronyism scandals that have dragged down Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's normally high approval ratings and led to opposition calls for the premier and his finance minister to resign.

Fukuda has denied the allegations and on Thursday Finance Minister Taro Aso said he had warned the bureaucrat about his conduct, but did not plan to investigate further or punish him.

"I told him to act with a sense of propriety, given the current climate," Aso told a parliament session, in an apparent reference to the scrutiny the cabinet is under.

"As I felt he was sufficiently remorseful, I don't intend to investigate further," he added.

The minister said that he felt it was unnecessary to punish Fukuda, saying "an oral warning is enough".

On Friday, top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga declined to comment further on the issue, saying only that he agrees with "Minister Aso's comments" to parliament.

Opinion polls last month showed Abe's support dropping to the lowest level since his re-election in October amid two cronyism scandals, one of which involves the alteration of documents by the finance ministry.

Abe has denied wrongdoing in both scandals.

Japan has one of the world's worst records for female political representation, and has deeply entrenched gender attitudes.

Just 4% of rape victims go to the police, according to a 2015 government survey, and the #MeToo movement that has raised awareness of sexual harassment worldwide has had a relatively muted reception in Japan.

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