An official from the management company of Japanese idol group AKB48 and its spinoff groups has been replaced, amid condemnation over the company’s tepid handling of a case of home assault against one of its singers.
AKS announced a change in personnel and apologised five days after Maho Yamaguchi, a 23-year-old member of NGT48, revealed she had been squeezed in the face by two intruders at her home last year on December 8.
Despite being the victim, Maho Yamaguchi was made to apologise to fans during a concert on December 10, saying her confession had caused “trouble”.
The move prompted Rino Sashihara, a leading member of another spinoff group HKT48, to criticise the managing company for making a victim of assault issue a public apology.
On Monday, AKS operations official Takumi Matsumura apologised for having caused anxiety among fans and the members of NGT48, and said it has replaced Etsuro Imamura, manager of the theatre for NGT48, with AKS official Maiko Hayakawa, in what was generally interpreted as his sacking.
Matsumura declined to go into detail about exactly what happened to Yamaguchi in the incident, and said the company had not taken any public action before Monday because it needed to consider the investigation by police.
AKS said Thursday that it “confirmed” one of the members of NGT48 had helped the pair of attackers. But it said on Monday that further police investigations indicated none of the group did anything illegal in connection with the incident.
The group led by the Tokyo-based AKB48 has many affiliates not only in other Japanese cities but overseas such as JKT48 in Indonesia, BNK48 in Thailand and MNL48 in the Philippines.
A 2016 survey conducted by Japan’s cabinet office found that only 4.3 per cent of rape victims reported their assaults to the police.
Reasons for not reporting the crimes included embarrassment, or a belief they were also “in the wrong”, or that it was “pointless [to address]” the incident, according to a report by The Japan Times.