Japan’s second female vice minister selected

Kyodo

A welfare ministry bureaucrat who was at the center of a scandal that saw senior Osaka prosecutors take the fall for evidence-tampering against her has been named as the nation’s second-ever female vice minister.

Atsuko Muraki, 57, currently director general of the Social Welfare and War Victims’ Relief Bureau, will become vice minister of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry based on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s call to appoint more women to key positions, government officials announced Friday.

Muraki was arrested and indicted for alleged involvement in a fraud case in 2009, when she was director general of the ministry’s Equal Employment, Children and Families Bureau.

But she was acquitted and named to a senior post at the Cabinet Office in 2010, before returning to the health ministry last year. During the course of her litigation ordeal, it was revealed that key Osaka prosecutors had tried to doctor evidence to prove her guilt, and then covered it up.

Three were later indicted and tried. The nation’s public prosecutor general, Hiroshi Obayashi, stepped down in 2011 to take responsibility for the scandal.

The final decision on Muraki’s appointment is expected to come within this month, the sources said.

Japan’s first female vice minister, Nobuko Matsubara, was appointed to the labor ministry in 1997.

Abe has selected women for two of the three key executive positions in his ruling Liberal Democratic Party and urged business organizations to promote more female executives.