A working group of the United Nations Human Rights Council held a press conference regarding the sexual misconduct controversies surrounding the talent agency Johnny & Associates (Johnny's).
The working group stated, "Our interactions with victims of sexual harassment involving Johnny & Associates talents have exposed deeply alarming allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse involving several hundreds of the company's talents."
The scandal, which has drawn the attention of the global community, should be a national shame. Turning a blind eye is not an option.
First and foremost, media organizations, including The Sankei Shimbun, should deeply reflect on their role. As the UNHRC working group emphasized, Japanese media outlets had been "reportedly implicated in covering up the scandal for decades."
The reality stands that media outlets had been turning a blind eye to this issue. This is despite the 2003 Tokyo High Court ruling that confirmed Johnny Kitagawa's sexual misconduct, as well as the repeated coverage by weekly magazines.
Moreover, this incident only began to be properly addressed after Japan faced external pressure, such as the BBC report and the involvement of the UN. This should elicit a profound sense of shame and ignite significant changes.
And this need for change extends not only to Johnny & Associates. It encompasses the entire entertainment industry as well as the Japanese government.
Transparency and Accountability
The talent agency has since established a "special team for recurrence prevention." But the UN working group said, "Doubts persist about the transparency and legitimacy of the company's special team."
In fact, the company's response so far has been limited to apologies from its executives through videos and written statements. It has not even held a press conference to address this issue.
The executives should clarify who should be held responsible, provide comprehensive answers to inquiries, discuss measures to prevent recurrences, and provide support for the victims.
Furthermore, the working group has indicated that it would broaden the scope of its investigations beyond Johnny & Associates. Serious cases of sexual misconduct have also emerged within the film and theater industries. This highlights how the entrenched hierarchical structure of closed communities serves as a hotbed for such problems. Unfortunately, sexual misconduct within Johnny & Associates is not an isolated issue.
Time for Change
In response to the scandal, the Japanese government has implemented urgent measures to prevent sexual victimization of children and youth. This includes the establishment of dedicated helplines for men and boys. While this is an advancement, the working group has also urged the government to provide effective remedies for the victims within Johnny's Entertainment.
The working group plans to present a report to the Human Rights Council by June 2024 and continue urging the Japanese government to implement reforms. Should the government persist in its passive stance, the report's findings could take on an even graver tone. Ignoring this problem will have severe consequences.