Japan's male talent agency Johnny & Associates Inc., mired in allegations of sexual abuse by its late founder, said Friday that an external investigation team will also probe into alleged similar abuses by a former male staff member after a magazine report of his sexual assaults.
In a widening scandal at one of Japan's most influential entertainment agencies, the team, initially tasked with investigating alleged cases involving the founder Johnny Kitagawa, will look into a former agent who took charge of Johnny's Jr., a talent pool of male idols in training.
According to the report by the weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun on Thursday, the former agent had committed sexual acts against several teenagers among the male idols in training. He started working at the agency from the early 1990s, and his job included taking care of Johnny's Jr. until around 2000, the magazine said.
The report comes after some former members of the agency, such as Kauan Okamoto, have come forward, saying they were sexually abused as teenagers by Kitagawa. The founder was one of the most revered figures in Japan's entertainment industry, propelling numerous groups such as SMAP, Arashi and Hey! Say! JUMP to stardom before his death in 2019. Okamoto was part of Johnny's Jr.
Johnny & Associates said in May that it would set up an external special probe team to look into alleged sexual abuse by the founder and compile measures to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents. The agency has said that it will take appropriate measures based on proposals by the team members such as a former prosecutor general, a psychiatrist and a practicing clinical psychologist.
The allegations that Kitagawa sexually abused teenagers garnered attention after the BBC aired a documentary in March that included interviews with alleged victims.
Okamoto and two other former members on Monday submitted a petition with nearly 40,000 signatures to ruling and opposition parties, asking for a revision to the country's child abuse prevention law for stronger protection of minors.
The government plans to hold a ministerial meeting as early as next week to address sexual abuse allegations involving the agency, a source close to the matter said Wednesday.