Japanese talent management company Johnny & Associates has announced that three former judges will oversee a scheme to provide financial compensation to the hundreds of men who were sexually abused by the firm's late founder Johnny Kitagawa, who died in 2019.
As more people come forward to confirm that they were abused as boys or young men while working with Kitagawa's J-pop powerhouse, a website has been launched so that they can provide information about the abuse they suffered and negotiate a financial settlement.
The company said in a statement: “We recognise that the late Johnny Kitagawa carried out sexual assaults over a long period and we apologise to the victims from the bottom of our hearts. We vow to carry out compensation and prevent a recurrence".
These moves follow the recent independent investigation instigated by Johnny’s into all the allegations that were made against Kitagawa over the decades. It concluded that the firm’s leadership should accept that the abuse took place, apologise to the victims and offer them financial relief.
It also recommended that Kitagawa’s niece Julie Fujishima, who was President of the company, should step down. She has now done that, being replaced by Noriyuki Higashiyama, who for 35 years was a member of one of the pop groups Johnny’s managed.
However, the executive rejig might not be enough to help Johnny’s put the decades of abuse and cover ups behind it. Fujishima still owns the company and sits on its board, and Higashiyama has also been accused of inappropriate behaviour in the past.
The commitment to compensate Kitagawa's victims through a scheme led by judges with no ties to the company is part of a wider bid to win back the trust of the public, and all the brands that are currently cutting their ties with Johnny’s-signed artists.
According to the Associated Press, the firm has also announced that it won't be taking any commissions from the artists it represents for the next year, so that any people or companies supporting those artists won't be inadvertently funding the management business.
Now that Kitagawa's conduct has been confirmed by his company - after decades of denial - Japan's media are facing criticism for having consistently ignored the widely known allegations against the J-pop boss while he was alive.
In 1999 Shukan Bunshun magazine did publish an article about the allegations. Kitagawa successfully sued the title for libel, although the judgement was partially overturned on appeal. Other media organisations chose not to cover the story, fearing that doing so would lose them access to the pop stars Johnny’s managed.