Crime Connections, Abusive Practices Come to Light in Yoshimoto Kogyo Entertainment Agency Scandal

posted on by Kim Morrissy
Company president initially ordered comedians not to speak out at press conference

Japan's largest entertainment group Yoshimoto Kōgyō has been rocked in scandal after several Yoshimoto comedians admitted that they had received money and attended parties held by an organized crime syndicate in 2014. Company president Akihiko Okamoto admitted to the company's crime connections at a press conference in Tuesday, where he also admitted that he had initially pressured comedians not to speak out about the issue.

Since the press conference, a number of Yoshimoto talents have spoken up publicly about the abusive practices and power harassment they experienced at the agency. Okamoto said that he would take a 50% pay cut for a year as an indication of his remorse. He pledged to cut ties with the criminal groups and to improve transparency and support within the company.

The Yoshimoto scandal has brought up concerns about the company's government connections and public funding. In April, the agency announced that it was venturing into educational video streaming in a partnership with Nippon Television Network (Nippon Television Holdings, which owns NTT, also has shares in Yoshimoto). The venture received up to 10 billion yen (approximately US$92 million) in funding from the government's Cool Japan fund, which is used to promote the commercial capital of the country's culture industries, such as anime and manga.

Politician Takuya Hirai, the Minister of State for "Cool Japan," said that Yoshimoto had been one of prominent companies for Cool Japan contents and that he "expects to see the full weight of the law and accountability" be put into effect. The Fair Trade Commission also indicated that it was "a problem" that Yoshimoto did not have written contracts with its talent.

Yoshimoto's troubles have surfaced amid concerns that Johnny & Associates Talent Agency, another large entertainment group, was potentially pressuring TV stations to reduce coverage on three former members of the popular boy band SMAP. The Fair Trading Commission issued a warning to Johnny's about potentially violating the Antimonopoly Act.

Source: Nikkei Asian Review (Rurika Imahashi), Sports Nippon Newspapers, Business Network (Ichirō Matsumoto), Jiji Press, Asahi Shimbun (Kōji Nakano)

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