A top bureaucrat in Japan’s finance ministry resigned on Wednesday over allegations that he had sexually harassed journalists, reported AFP. Junichi Fukuda is accused of making sexually suggestive remarks to the women.
Fukuda, who is the vice minister of finance, said the allegations were “not factual”, according to The New York Times. The allegations were first reported in the Shukan Shincho magazine. The magazine later released an audio clip on YouTube in which the voice of a man, believed to be Fukuda, is heard saying, “I will tie up your hands. Can I touch your breasts?” and “Shall we have an affair once the budget is approved?” reported The Japan Times.
The magazine also quoted several unidentified journalists who alleged that Fukuda had made sexual remarks repeatedly during one-on-one meetings. The bureaucrat refuted the allegations and said: “I do not recognise that I made sexually harassing remarks that would make female reporters feel offended.”
On Monday, Fukuda threatened to sue Shukan Shincho. “Given this tabloid reporting is libellous and at odds with the facts, I am preparing to sue [the publisher] Shinchosha,” he said, according to The Financial Times.
However, on Wednesday he offered his resignation saying “it would be difficult to fulfil his duty”.
Finance Minister Taro Aso said he had accepted the bureaucrat’s resignation. Aso had initially dismissed the allegations claiming that he had warned the bureaucrat, who, he said, was “sufficiently remorseful”. He later said that Fukuda would be fired if the allegations were proven.
Japan’s finance ministry has hired an external law firm to conduct an independent investigation and asked female reporters covering the ministry to contact the lawyers in confidence, reported The Financial Times.
Japan has had a mild response to the #MeToo movement, which raised awareness about sexual harassment. Just 2.8% of rape victims in the country go to the police, according to a 2017 government survey, according to AFP.