• Kyodo News


Welfare official Atsuko Muraki returned to work after 15 months of leave Wednesday, a day after being reinstated by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry following her acquittal in a postal abuse case.

“I feel like I’ve had a weight lifted off my chest and am relieved,” the 54-year-old former bureau chief said before going to her office. She has been temporarily assigned to its secretariat.

“I’m glad to be able to return, but am also nervous as there is a blank period” in her career, she added.

She said her eldest daughter told her she was relieved the acquittal was finalized.

“My other daughter said to me, ‘you did very good,’ like an adult talking to a child,” Muraki said, adding that her husband, who is also a high-ranking health ministry official, said jokingly that he will not have a stay-at-home housewife after she returns to work.

At the ministry, she received a letter of appointment from Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Ritsuo Hosokawa.

Regarding the arrest Tuesday night of Tsunehiko Maeda, the 43-year-old principal prosecutor in the Muraki probe, for allegedly obstruction of evidence, she said, “I was very much surprised, stunned also as the case unfolded very rapidly.”

“I hope the incident will be a trigger for prosecutors to properly identify problems and correct them,” she said.

The ministry is arranging to appoint Muraki to a bureau chief-level post internally or the Cabinet Office as quickly as possible, because she was head of the Equal Employment, Children and Families Bureau when she was arrested in June last year, ministry officials said.

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