Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said Monday that Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda should return any political contributions confirmed to have come from foreigners, who are barred by law from giving donations.
But Fujimura, a close ally of the prime minister, also said he sees the need to revise the law, stressing the difficulty of determining whether a donor is a Japanese citizen or not.
“Personally, I think some sort of revision is necessary,” Fujimura said Monday morning without elaborating.
Various media reports over the weekend said that Noda had received about ¥300,000 from two Korean residents in Japan who have Japanese names. One payment was made between 2001 and 2003 and the other between 1998 and 1999.
Both cases have passed the three-year statute of limitations. Noda and his office have denied knowing the donations were made by foreigners and have started investigating them.
In Japan, there are many ethnic Korean nationals who use Japanese names — a requirement imposed by Japanese colonial rule before World War II.
“It is not like we check the nationality of each and every person, so we don’t know until it is pointed out to us,” Fujimura said. “I too receive donations from various individuals and I honestly don’t know” if foreigners are included.
Under the Political Funds Control Law, lawmakers are prohibited from accepting donations from foreigners or foreign companies. Violators face up to three years in prison or fines of up to ¥500,000.
Fujimura said it was possible other lawmakers, regardless of political party, are in the same boat.
But the government’s top spokesman also added that it was up to each political funds organization to check its records and that he had no intention of ordering Cabinet ministers to examine their funds.
“I don’t think this is a matter just related to the Democratic Party of Japan,” Fujimura said. “People, regardless of which party they belong to, are supported by various people in their local areas.”
In March, then Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara was forced to step down after finding that he had accepted ¥250,000 from a Korean resident using a Japanese name. He also announced last month that he had accepted similar donations from three other foreigners individuals and one firm.
Meanwhile, Noda’s predecessor, Naoto Kan, was also hit with a similar scandal in which he received ¥1.04 million from a Korean resident in Japan. Both Maehara and Kan returned the money.