Yoshitada Konoike, state minister in charge of deregulation zones and disaster management, said Friday the parents of the 12-year-old youth suspected of slaying a 4-year-old boy in Nagasaki should be dragged through the streets and beheaded.
“It is better to have the parents decapitated for punishment after dragging them around town,” said Konoike, who doubles as the de facto head of a government panel on rearing juveniles. “The mass media should show the faces of the boy’s parents. His teachers and parents should appear” in front of cameras.
The 62-year-old minister said the appearance of the arrested boy’s parents and teachers in the media would help remind all people who have children of their responsibility as parents.
Konoike’s remarks drew a barrage of criticism, but he refused to apologize.
“I merely talked in parables because I like Toei Co. movies,” he told reporters at the Cabinet Office, referring to the samurai dramas that the company is noted for, in which law enforcement authorities mete out brutal punishment to criminals in public.
He later told reporters in the Diet building that he will be careful not to use the word “decapitation” again, noting that he was aware of the hubbub caused by his remarks. “I know it is impossible under the Penal Code.”
Top government officials later criticized Konoike’s remarks, with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi branding them “inappropriate” and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda calling them “too extreme.”
“They were inappropriate, but I understand that he regrets the remarks and that he said them in consideration of the feelings of the victim,” Koizumi told reporters.
But those involved in the Nagasaki case had harsher words for the minister.
Yukari Kawahara, the head of the prefecture’s central child welfare center, slammed the remarks as being the equivalent of “a witch hunt” and said her body shook when she heard them. Police have referred the Nagasaki suspect to Kawahara’s organization in accordance with the Child Welfare Law.
“It’s outrageous,” said lawyer Naotatsu Nakamura, who heads the Nagasaki Bar Association’s committee on children’s rights. “Having a person at the center of government making such remarks will serve only to amplify the negative sentiments the public harbors (at the moment).”
He added that it is important to have the general public ponder the distortions in modern-day society that are the essence of the issue. Konoike’s comments only put more distance between the public and what it needs to think about, he said.
Konoike is a House of Councilors lawmaker from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which is headed by Koizumi.
He has been tasked this summer with outlining a comprehensive policy on how the government can help parents, teachers, welfare workers and police nurture youth.
“But I won’t do that,” Konoike said. Before making a list of abstract slogans in the envisioned outline, the government “should launch a panel that exclusively deals with ways to prevent juvenile crime,” he said.
Koizumi later said he still wants the principles established as planned, but that the plan should include Konoike’s idea about touching on specific measures to battle juvenile crime.
According to police, the junior high school student, whose case has been sent to a family court, pushed Shun Tanemoto, 4, to his death from the roof of a multistory parking garage in Nagasaki on the night of July 1.