Woman sues Cool Japan Fund over sex harassment


A woman in her 20s has sued a public-private investment fund promoting Japanese pop culture overseas for alleged sexual harassment and unfair labor practices, her lawyer said Thursday.

The woman, who used to work at Cool Japan Fund Inc. as a temporary employee, is seeking ¥20 million ($188,000) in damages, claiming she was sexually harassed by her former bosses, including a senior government official, between 2015 and 2016.

The woman also alleges that the fund, sponsored by the government and major Japanese companies, illegally refused to renew her contract after she formed a labor union.

The Tokyo-based fund was set up in 2013 at the behest of the industry ministry as part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s drive to turn Japanese culture such as anime, apparel and cuisine into a major driver of economic growth.

As of last April, the fund was capitalized at ¥69.3 billion, with 80 percent coming from the central government.

“I hope the fund will admit to sexual and power harassment,” the woman said. “I cannot understand why it refused to extend my contract.”

She filed the lawsuit with the Tokyo District Court on Tuesday, naming the fund and former and current officials.

The fund provided no comment to Kyodo News, saying it had yet to receive the legal documents.

According to the plaintiff’s petition, a senior male official invited her and other female employees to a karaoke bar in Tokyo in July 2016 and ordered them to draw lots containing propositions, such as going on a date.

The petition also said a senior official at the Reconstruction Agency who was then working at the fund tried to hold her around her shoulders and grab her hands at a welcome party in July 2015.

She claims the acts constituted sexual harassment.

Together with her colleagues, the woman, who was dispatched to the fund by a staffing agency in January 2015, formed a labor union last year and urged the fund to prevent sexual harassment.

The petition says that she was later prevented by the fund from going to work and that it did not renew her contract, which ended in late November.