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Talent agency to make all its entertainers confirm no ties to 'antisocial groups'

Hiroshi Osaki, chairman of Yoshimoto Kogyo Holdings Co., is seen in an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun on July 12, 2019. (Mainichi/Taro Fujii)

TOKYO -- Talent agency Yoshimoto Kogyo Holdings Co. is set to sign letters of confirmation with all of its approximately 6,000 comedians and other entertainers that they have no ties to antisocial groups such as yakuza organizations.

Hiroshi Osaki, 65, chairman of the Osaka-based entertainment conglomerate specializing in comedy, made the announcement in a recent exclusive interview with the Mainichi Shimbun. The move follows revelations that some of its popular comedians got paid for appearing at a party organized by a purported crime group.

"It's extremely regrettable. We have no choice but to reflect on the scandal and start over," Osaki told the Mainichi.

"These entertainers ended up receiving money that had been swindled from elderly people. They're extremely stupid," he said of 49-year-old Hiroyuki Miyasako and other comedians.

With regard to the comedians' initial denial of having accepted the money, Osaki said, "That's the most serious problem."

The company had previously de-listed its stock and repeatedly held seminars for entertainers on compliance with laws in a bid to sever their ties with antisocial groups.

"There were some loopholes. We'll take thorough countermeasures," he said.

The company has taken punitive measures against 13 comedians belonging to the firm for accepting money to appear at the party. The 13 received the work not via Yoshimoto.

Miyasako received 1 million yen and Ryo Tamura earned 500,000 yen while others accepted tens of thousands of yen.

Miyasako and others have already amended their tax returns to include their remunerations as taxable income and are being questioned by the company and are talking with the firm over when and how to resume their work.

Under the letters of confirmation, all entertainers will be required to notify the company when they receive work not via the agency.

Osaki told the Mainichi that the company has no intention of changing its longstanding practice of concluding only verbal contracts with entertainers belonging to the company without signing written contracts.

"In our over 100-year history, we've nurtured mutual trust as well as feelings that entertainers belong to the company. It's part of Yoshimoto's culture," he said.

In response to opinions that the company should guarantee a minimum level of income for its entertainers, Osaki said, "I think entertainers have many tough jobs, but it's the right path for them to overcome such difficulties and establish their own style of art."

Osaki dismissed criticism that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe used Yoshimoto for political purposes by appearing in a comedy show in April at the Namba Grand Kagetsu theater in Osaka owned by the company to promote public relations on the Group of 20 summit of major wealthy and developing countries in June.

"We're not yielding to those in power or being used by them," he said.

(Japanese original by Masakazu Yui, Digital News Center)

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