National Public Safety Commission Chairwoman Eriko Yamatani, who doubles as state minister in charge of the abduction issue, has acknowledged posing for a photograph in 2009 with a former member of the anti-Korean Zaitokukai rightist group who is accused of engaging in hate speech against ethnic Koreans.
But Yamatani told a news conference Thursday she was unaware of the man’s background at the time.
The 61-year-old man headed the Kansai branch of Zaitokukai, which calls for abolishing the right of ethnic Koreans to permanently live in Japan. Its activists are known for mounting street rallies denigrating Korean residents.
The photo, which was taken at a hotel in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, in February 2009, was a fixture on the man’s website until Tuesday.
The man said he has known Yamatani since he asked her to serve as an adviser to another group about 15 years ago but said he didn’t tell her about his involvement in Zaitokukai.
Yamatani said she opposes hate speech on the grounds that it insults individuals and groups and fuels discrimination. She called on the police to deal with it based on the rule of law.
A member of the House of Councilors, Yamatani joined the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sept. 3.