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Senior Cabinet figure sought plan change allegedly paving way for Kake school: ministry doc

A copy of a document mentioning how Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda told the education ministry to make changes to the ministry's draft for a deregulation plan is seen. (Mainichi)

An internal education ministry document claims that a deputy chief Cabinet secretary told the ministry to adjust a reform plan to allow a new veterinary department in a special economic zone, reinforcing suspicions that the move was carried out on the premise that Kake Educational Institution would be picked as the new school's operator.

The revelation came on June 15 after the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology released documents relating to a plan to open a new veterinary department by Kake Educational Institution, which is headed by a close friend of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The ministry had reopened an in-house investigation into documents that mentioned "the prime minister's will" in approving the new vet school at an early date.

Copies of an email plus an attached document sent by the Cabinet Office to education ministry officials and dated Nov. 1, 2016, show that Yutaka Fujiwara, then deputy director general at the Cabinet Office for local economic revitalization, met with ministry figures in charge of the school approval and told them to alter a draft to be submitted to the Council on National Strategic Special Zones.

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda (Mainichi)

Specifically, Fujiwara demanded a passage stating new vet schools should be allowed "in areas where vocational universities for veterinarians and other such institutions do not already exist" be changed to "only in an area where veterinary vocational schools do not already exist, in broader areas." The email included a passage saying that, according to Fujiwara, this order apparently came from Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda.

To prevent an oversupply of veterinarians, the ministry had not approved a new vet school for about 50 years. On Nov. 9 last year, however, the Council on National Strategic Special Zones approved a deregulation plan to allow the opening of a new vet school "only in an area where veterinary vocational schools do not already exist, in broader areas." Kake Educational Institution was picked on Jan. 20 this year to operate a new vet school.

Kyoto Sangyo University had also hoped to open a vet school in Kyoto Prefecture, but it gave up on the plan because there was a vet vocational school at a university in neighboring Osaka Prefecture -- too close, Kyoto Sangyo officials thought, to get approval under the deregulation plan conditions.

Hagiuda fired back at the education ministry, telling reporters, "I never told them to change the wording, and contents of the email released by the education ministry contradict facts."

Meanwhile, Kozo Yamamoto, minister in charge of regional revitalization, said on June 16 that he was the one who decided to include the phrase "in broader areas" in the education ministry draft.

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