Top Japanese official resigns over sexual misconduct allegations

Vice minister of finance, Junichi Fukuda, denied the accusations that he sexually harassed a journalist but resigned as to not disrupt the ministry's work

Junichi Fukuda denied the allegations (Photo: Reuters)
Junichi Fukuda denied the allegations (Photo: Reuters)

A top Japenese official resigned on Wednesday following allegatioons of sexual misconduct, in what is being described as the country’s #MeToo moment.

Junichi Fukuda, the vice minister of finance, denied accusations reported in a magazine which says he sexually harassed a female reporter, but said he would quit.

The magazine, which also released an audio clip of the incident, claimed he told the journalist he wanted to kiss her. “I’ll tie up your hands. Can I touch your breasts?” a voice allegedly belonging to Fukuda is heard saying on the recording. “Shall we have an affair once the budget is approved?”

Fukuda’s resignation will come as a further embarrassment to the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, who is struggling to contain a cronyism scandal that centres on finance ministry officials.

Separately, a local governor stepped down over allegations he paid women for relationships.

Fukuda said he would fight the allegations against him and only resigning because he did not want to disrupt work at the ministry which already "faces a severe situation".

The finance minister, Taro Aso, drew widespread criticism for resisting calls to fire Fukuda, who initially said he would launch a libel suit against the magazine.

The finance ministry has launched an investigation and urged the alleged victim to come forward so it can determine if Fukuda was guilty of sexual misconduct.

Aso, who conceded the remarks on the audio were unacceptable, said Fukuda could not be accused of sexual misconduct until the unnamed female reporter, an employee of the private broadcaster TV Asahi, comes forward.

“Because no victim has come out, only the wrongdoer has been put on the spot and it’s a one-sided story,” Aso said. “Fukuda could be the victim instead of a wrongdoer.”

Before Fukuda's resignation, Japan's newspaper employees union had issued a statement calling for better protection of women in the workplace.

"Female reporters have had to suffer silently, despite being subjected to humiliating and mortifying treatment," the union said.

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