The Johnny & Associates talent agency in Japan is to dissolve following a major scandal caused by the acts of sexual abuse conducted by the group’s late founder Johnny Kitagawa.
The company announced on Monday that it will break itself into two parts – one to be called Smile-Up, entirely devoted to compensating victims – the other as a talent agency operating with a new name, that has yet to be decided.
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The group began to take action last month following two damning investigations that found that Kitagawa’s abuse had been hugely extensive and continued for years and that the company and Japanese media had ignored, if not covered it up.
On Monday it said that some 325 victims had come forward to claim compensation.
In a statement read out on behalf of former company president Julie Fujishima, who still owns 100% of the agency, said that it was her duty as Kitagawa’s relative to put an end to Johnny & Associates. “I want to remove all traces of Johnny Kitagawa from this world,” her statement said.
The abuse of boys and young men supposedly under the agency’s care went on for more than two decades and may have affected more than a hundred clients, a recent report found. The abuse by Kitagawa, who died in 2019, was seemingly widely-known in agency and media circles, but remained an open secret. Evidence of Kitagawa’s abuse was even presented in a 2003 defamation court hearing, but it took a further 20 years and a February 2023 BBC documentary to bring matters to public and corporate attention.
The group initially took only a cautious approach to the revelations that were brought to the surface again by the BBC documentary. But following the two third-party investigations, the firm said that it accepted the abuses committed by Kitagawa, who died in 2019, as factual.
Last month, Fujishima said that she would resign, that a compensation committee would be established and that the group would forgo a portion of its fee income. But these moves appear not to have been enough to stem the flow of bad publicity and corporate client resignations.
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