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Fans of Japan talent agency Johnny's idols seek 3rd-party probe of alleged sex abuse

Leaders of the group Penlight hold a press conference calling for measures to be taken over alleged sexual abuse by late Johnny & Associates Inc. founder and former president, Johnny Kitagawa, in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward on May 11, 2023. (Mainichi/Kengo Miura)

TOKYO -- A group of fans of idols belonging to Johnny & Associates Inc. (Johnny's) is seeking an investigation by a third-party committee into alleged sexual abuse by the talent agency's late founder Johnny Kitagawa.

    A singer who used to belong to the agency has claimed he was sexually abused by Kitagawa. Penlight, a group of fans and volunteers who have been collecting signatures demanding an investigation, announced their view on May 15 in response to the video and written apology from the company. The group said that while they appreciate current Johnny's President Julie Keiko Fujishima's May 14 apology to the victims, "Many points remain unclear when there's only a prepared document instead of taking questions at a press conference, and we feel it is inadequate."

    Penlight started collecting signatures on the online petition website in April, demanding an apology to the victims and measures to prevent a recurrence. They collected 16,125 names in less than a month, and mailed them to Johnny's in May, along with social media comments by fans gathered during the same period. At a May 11 press conference, a female fan and founding Penlight member said, "Many fans are torn between the feeling that sexual violence is unforgivable and the feeling that they want to support the talent."

    In an opinion released on May 15, Penlight praised Fujishima's apology to the former Johnny's singer and other victims, saying, "For now, the company showed its sincerity." On the other hand, the group refuted the agency's decision to forgo a third-party investigation claiming it would put too great a psychological burden on victims. Fujishima said, "It's highly likely that some of the people covered don't want a hearing." Penlight countered, "It is not secondary damage to confirm whether a person wishes to have a hearing or not." The group requested an investigation and verification by an independent committee once again, saying, "While respecting those who do not wish it, we would like (the agency) to find a way to verify the results of an investigation."

    Regarding the external consultation service that Johnny's plans to set up, Penlight pointed out that "it is not clear whether it is for counseling or for investigating the actual damage." It also demanded that "those who report damage should be given appropriate support" and that "merely setting up a contact point where people have to go and report the damage themselves is not sufficient for a fact-finding investigation."

    The online petition site is still accepting signatures, and as of May 16, more than 19,000 names had been received.

    (Japanese original by Shinji Kurokawa and Takashi Miyazaki, Tokyo City News Department)

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