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Japan Post president admits NHK program was correct about illicit insurance sales

Japan Post Holdings Co. Masatsugu Nagato explains how Japan Post repeatedly made requests to NHK regarding the program "Close-Up Gendai Plus" at a press conference in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward, on Sept. 30, 2019. (Mainichi/Masahiro Ogawa)

TOKYO -- The president of Japan Post Holdings Co. admitted that the contents of a program aired by public broadcaster NHK, to which Japan Post had raised objections, had been factual, and offered an apology at a press conference on Sept. 30.

An episode of the NHK program "Close-Up Gendai Plus," which aired on April 24, 2018, exposed post offices' practice of selling life insurance policies to elderly people and others using illicit methods.

In October of that year, the NHK Board of Governors, upon receiving requests from Japan Post, rebuked NHK President Ryoichi Ueda. At the Sept. 30 press conference, Japan Post Holdings Co. President Masatsugu Nagato admitted that the contents of the NHK program had been correct, saying, "Looking back, things were exactly as was broadcasted." Furthermore, he said he was "deeply apologetic" for having filed complaints with NHK and making requests to the broadcaster without having conducted an investigation into the situation.

The press conference had been held for Japan Post Holdings to release its midterm report on their investigation into the scandal, but many questions from the press also focused on the "Close-Up Gendai Plus" program that was aired on April 24 of last year, and the repeated requests Japan Post made to NHK since then.

Nagato told members of the media that at the time, he had felt that a video that "Close-Up Gendai Plus" tweeted in order to gather more information to produce a sequel to the episode on post offices' illicit sales of insurance policies was "biased" for its use of the expressions "coercive sales," "fraud," and "loss of principal."

He explained that he felt an increasing sense of crisis that Japan Post was "being unilaterally criticized as a sweatshop or the embodiment of evil," and put in a request with NHK President Ueda to erase the video. Subsequently, Nagoto said, he was notified by NHK that the video had been erased, and that the sequel installment of "Close-Up Gendai Plus" had been postponed.

Nagato told reporters that he then re-watched the episode of "Close-Up Gendai Plus" that had been broadcast on April 24, 2018. "Now that I looked back at it, things were exactly as was broadcasted (on the show). It struck home that as Japan Post Holdings we had to humbly accept the truth and address it. I am deeply apologetic," he said.

Asked who had made the decision to lodge complaints and requests with NHK, Nagoto said, "We all discussed the issue together, and made the decision as a group company." Last November, senior executive vice president of Japan Post Holdings Yasuo Suzuki emphasized his former position as vice-minister of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications -- which has jurisdiction over broadcast administration -- in a letter thanking the NHK Board of Governors for rebuking NHK President Ueda over the episode. To that, Nagato expressed his view that since Suzuki's tenure as vice-minister ended nine years ago there was no intent to apply pressure on NHK using his former position.

Noriko Kinoshita, a public relations official at Japan Post Holdings who responded to reporters' questions after the new conference, said about the complaints against NHK that "they were lodged under the circumstances at the time," and that the group company had no intention to apologize, or to withdraw its complaints or requests.

(Japanese original by Takuya Izawa, City News Department, and Tomonori Matsuo, Cultural News Department)

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