The Japanese talent agency Johnny & Associates has announced that it will split into two entities amid its sex abuse scandal.
One of the entities named Smile-Up will be focusing on compensating the victims of sexual abuse by the company’s founder Johnny Kitagawa, who passed away in 2019. The other entity will continue to work with upcoming artists.
The agency will be operating under a new name as an apparent way to disassociate itself from its disgraced founder. The name has yet to be decided on. The company has stated that over 300 victims have come forward to claim compensation (via Reuters).
The dissolution of the company comes after the agency launched its own investigation following the release of a BBC documentary titled Predator: The Secret Scandal of J-Pop.
The documentary shared Kitagawa’s alleged history of sexual abuse and was aired earlier this year. Upon its release, new accusers came forward.
Kitagawa was arguably the most influential figure in Japan’s entertainment industry and his agency has held a near-monopoly on Japanese boy bands for decades.
Per BBC, he had faced allegations of sexual misconduct while he was alive and some were proven in a civil court, but he never faced charges. He had continued recruiting and training teenage boys until his death in 2019, aged 87.
“We will disband Johnny & Associates and face the victims in a sincere manner. The new company will create a new future with its fans,” said Noriyuki Higashiyama, the agency’s current president, at a recent news conference to announce Smile-up.
The previous boss of the agency, Julie Keiko Fujishima — Kitagawa’s niece — was ordered to resign from her position following the accusations against her uncle.
According to the report released by independent investigators in August, the fact Kitagawa’s niece, Julie Keiko Fujishima, took over the agency “is one of the biggest causes of governance failure” that was said to have caused the abuse to persist for decades. Subsequently, they argued her replacement was “necessary”, particularly since it would also allow Johnny and Associates to restructure its leadership.
The investigators said Fujishima must have known about the abuse but did nothing about it, despite her claim that she hadn’t been aware of it.
There was no immediate response from the agency or Fujishima to the findings of the investigation or its recommendation that she leave her post.
He appeared at a press conference on September 7, where he was met with questions about the claims.
At the event, journalists asked him whether allegations published in a book, which claimed that he massaged boys’ crotches, exposed his genitals and told them to “eat my sausage” were true (via BBC News).
Here, he responded that he had no recollection of any events that may or may not have happened. “I don’t remember clearly,” he responded. “Maybe it happened, maybe it didn’t. I have trouble remembering.”
He did however acknowledge claims that he had bullied younger performers, saying that it was possible he had been overly strict with them and would not behave in that same manner now.
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