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Former Abe Cabinet minister Kozo Yamamoto under fire for awkward Africa ‘black thing’ remark

Kyodo, JIJI, Staff Report

A former Cabinet minister appointed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is taking fire for making a controversial remark in which he wondered why a fellow politician involved in exchanges with Africa liked “such a black thing.”

Kozo Yamamoto, who lost his post as regional revitalization minister in the Cabinet reshuffle in August, made the remark Thursday during a meeting with other members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in Kitakyushu.

On Saturday, he said he would retract the remark if it caused any misunderstanding.

Yamamoto made the remark while speaking about Asahiko Mihara, a Lower House LDP member representing Fukuoka Prefecture, and his longtime exchanges with Africa.

“What I can’t follow is his passion for Africa,” Yamamoto said just before uttering the remark.

Yamamoto’s office on Saturday denied the lawmaker intended to make a racially discriminatory remark.

Addressing reporters in the city of Fukuoka on Saturday, Yamamoto said: “I referred to the continent of Africa and wanted to indicate how hard he is working (for Africa).”

Japanese media reports citing Yamamoto’s office said it had explained that Africa used to be called “the Dark Continent,” which Yamamoto had in mind when he made the remark.

“I didn’t say it in the context of race or something of the sort,” he added. “If my remark can cause misunderstanding, I would like to withdraw it.”

In April, Yamamoto came under fire for calling museum curators a “cancer” that must be eradicated. He later withdrew the remark and apologized.