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'His true character showed': Fukuda still denies sexual harassment claims as he resigns

Top Finance Ministry bureaucrat Junichi Fukuda, top center, speaks to reporters after announcing his resignation, in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on April 18, 2018. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- "One of our female employees was sexually harassed," TV Asahi Corp. revealed at a press conference a mere five hours after top Finance Ministry bureaucrat Junichi Fukuda dismissed the allegations against him by saying he had "no memory of having such a terrible conversation."

In response to press inquiries on the morning of April 19, Fukuda did not budge from denying that he sexually harassed a female reporter. "If you look at the whole picture, it's not sexual harassment," he said, prompting a wave of criticism from pundits that the stubborn stances of himself and the Finance Ministry are "outrageous."

"In (Fukuda's) repeated denials, I feel like a part of his true character was revealed. Corrosion at the deepest levels of the organization that is the Ministry of Finance is coming to the surface," commented cartoonist Mayumi Kurata. With the ministry not recognizing that the sexual harassment took place, TV Asahi ended up revealing that the victim was one of its reporters. "It's difficult for a woman to come forward," Kurata said of the situation, "So there is no other choice but for things to turn out like this."

The Asahi employee could not use her position at her own company to report on her abuse, so she handed over the materials she had gathered to a third-party -- the weekly magazine Shukan Shincho. Kurata said, "While there was a dilemma that this action goes against the ethics as an employee of a television broadcaster, I believe she deserves respect for making the decision after thoroughly considering her priorities as a human being."

As for the Finance Ministry's request that the victims of sexual harassment come forward and reveal their names to a government-hired legal team, "If it was a private company, it would be unimaginable," said Chiba University emeritus professor and political scientist Muneyuki Shindo. "This demonstrates the Finance Ministry's arrogance, with which the ministry believes that by simply saying 'there was no sexual harassment,' it can make this appear true, and that it can control the public in whatever way it wants."

"TV Asahi recognizes the incident as sexual harassment after an internal probe. The Finance Ministry has been deceiving the public in situations where everyone can tell the ministry is lying. This time around, though, the notion of wanting the administration to resign may be shared by a broader segment of the public," Shindo added.

(Japanese original by Yuka Narita and Epo Ishiyama, City News Department)

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