Hundreds seek compensation in J-pop sex abuse scandal

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The ‘Johnny & Associates’ talent agency will pay out claims to sexual abuse victims, it said on Monday

At least 325 people are seeking compensation over alleged sexual abuse by the deceased Japanese talent agent Johnny Kitagawa, his company said on Monday. The claims come weeks after an independent inquiry concluded that the music mogul had sexually assaulted hundreds of boys and young men throughout a six-decade career.

The talent agency, Johnny & Associates, said that 478 people had contacted a website set up to address alleged victims of Kitagawa, 325 of whom expressed a desire to receive financial compensation. It added that 150 of these were former talents that had been represented by the company.

The agency will also rename itself ‘Smile Up’, a newly-formed entity whose sole task will be to identify and compensate Kitagawa’s victims, its current president, Noriyuki Higashiyama, announced during a televised press conference.

“We will disband Johnny & Associates and face the victims in a sincere manner,” Higashiyama, a former actor and singer, said. “The new company will create a new future with its fans.” He added that compensation will be determined based on each individual victim’s complaint.

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A new, separate company will be established to manage talent already on the agency’s books.

Higashiyama, who replaced Kitagawa’s niece, Julie Fujishima, as chief executive earlier this year, has also been accused of sexual misconduct, but denied the allegations on Monday. “I have never sexually harassed anyone,” he said. “Some people may have felt I was power-harassing them, but it was 35-40 years ago, and I probably wouldn’t have been able to understand what sexual abuse is.” 

The rebranding of Johnny & Associates is being interpreted as a move to win back support from both the public and high-profile sponsors. The agency was dropped from partnerships with Nissan, Asahi, and Suntory last month following the inquiry.

The scandal has drawn significant media attention in Japan, and has been compared to similar cases involving movie producer Harvey Weinstein in the US and radio broadcaster Jimmy Savile in the UK.

American-born Japanese businessman Kitagawa, who died in July 2019 at the age of 87, was for years viewed as one of the country’s richest and most influential media figures. He was the creative force behind numerous J-pop bands but faced numerous allegations of sexual impropriety – which he consistently denied – before his death.

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