A member of the Japanese pop idol group Arashi broke his silence Monday over sexual abuse allegations involving the band's agency Johnny & Associates Inc., urging the company to get to the bottom of the scandal.
"I want the agency to probe exactly what happened without having people concerned speak against their will while protecting their privacy," Sho Sakurai said, speaking as an anchor during the TV program "news zero."
Sakurai, 41, who became an anchor on the program in 2006, joined other people related to Johnny & Associates in calling on one of Japan's most influential entertainment agencies to "ensure this kind of scandal will never happen again."
Earlier Monday, three former members of the Tokyo-based agency who have alleged sexual abuse by its late founder Johnny Kitagawa submitted a petition with some 40,000 signatures to ruling and opposition parties, asking them to revise the child abuse prevention law to protect minors from similar wrongdoings.
Sakurai also asked the public to be mindful that talking about or handling the issue based on groundless information could hurt some, including those who are now "living new lives" outside the entertainment industry.
"We must avoid having such people get drawn into the allegations. That should take top priority," he said.
The five-member boy band Arashi has been on hiatus since the end of 2020. Sakurai was an original member of the group, which debuted in 1999.
The allegations that Kitagawa sexually abused teenagers have garnered attention since the BBC aired a documentary in March that included interviews with victims. Kitagawa died in 2019 at the age of 87.
The agency's president Julie Keiko Fujishima made a public apology last month in connection with the scandal, while stopping short of confirming the claims by former members. Veteran singer Masahiko Kondo, who left the agency in 2021, reportedly urged agency officials to respond to the issue properly.