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5 gov't officials assigned to support Japan PM's wife despite unclear status

The government has assigned five government employees as support staff for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's wife Akie, the government told the Diet, even though it is unclear whether she can be deemed a public figure.

The assignment of the taxpayer-funded support staff for Akie Abe was disclosed during a meeting of the House of Councillors Budget Committee on March 2. The disclosure comes amid controversy over whether Akie Abe, who was previously named as honorary principal of an elementary school planned by the scandal-hit Moritomo Gakuen school corporation, is a public figure.

"She is not a public official, but she does accompany me when I travel abroad and plays a supportive role," the prime minister told the session.

According to a government statement, the government appointed a part-time national public servant in 2006 as a support staffer for the prime minister's wife.

After the inauguration of the prime minister's second Cabinet in late 2012, the number expanded to two full-time and three part-time government staffers.

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