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Family seeks damages over suicide of 16-year-old member of agriculture promotion idol group

Kyodo

The family of a pop group member who hanged herself in March sued officials of her talent agency for damages Friday, claiming their harassment and overwork caused her death.

In the suit filed with the Matsuyama District Court, the family of Honoka Omoto, 16, who was a member of Ehime Prefecture-based idol and agriculture-promotion group Enoha Girls, is seeking a combined ¥92 million ($819,720) from the president and three others at agency H Project.

“We want the company to speak about (what happened) as it is, without bending (the truth),” said Omoto’s mother Yukie, 42, at a news conference.

Takahiro Sasaki, the president of the agency, told reporters he feels responsible for being unable to save Omoto but added, “Some parts of the claims by the bereaved family are not true.”

Omoto joined the agency in July 2015 and had worked at events for more than 10 hours a day, including early and late hours, since around last year, according to the family. The Enoha Girls are involved in farming activities in addition to show business.

After finding it difficult to balance her work and student life, the family said Omoto conveyed her intention to leave the idol group to the company, but was met with abusive responses including a smartphone app message that said, “Seriously, I will hit you if you mention such nonsense again.”

The company had initially promised to lend her money to enter a different high school, but reneged after Omoto mentioned her intention to quit the group. The agency also told the girl to pay ¥100 million if she left, the family said.

Omoto was found to have hanged herself on March 21 after she skipped an event that she had been scheduled to attend.