The operator of popular all-girl band AKB48 and its sister groups said Monday it has removed one of its officials from a key post amid criticism of its handling of an assault against a member of idol group NGT48.
The company, AKS, announced the change in personnel and issued an apology five days after Maho Yamaguchi, a 23-year-old member of NGT48, revealed that she had been grabbed by the face by two men at her home on Dec. 8 last year.
Despite being the victim, Yamaguchi was made to apologize to fans during a performance on Thursday for revealing the incident on Twitter and thereby “causing trouble.”
Rino Sashihara, a leading member of HKT48, another sister group under the same management as AKB48, criticized the managing company for having the victim of an assault remain silent and then make a public apology.
Takumi Matsumura, an AKS official, apologized Monday for having caused anxiety among fans and the members of NGT48, and said the firm had replaced Etsuro Imamura, manager of the theater used by the group in Niigata, with AKS official Maiko Hayakawa. The move was generally interpreted to mean he would be terminated from the company.
Matsumura is responsible for operations of all musical units under management by AKS, with AKB48 as the leading group.
Matsumura declined to go into detail about exactly what happened to Yamaguchi in the incident and said that the company had not taken any public action before Monday because it needed to consider the investigation by police.
The two men who assaulted Yamaguchi were arrested but were subsequently released without charge.
AKS said Thursday it had “confirmed” one of the members of NGT48 helped the pair of attackers by telling them the time Yamaguchi was likely to return home. The company said Monday that it would set up a third-party panel to look into whether other members did anything inappropriate.
The cohort of idol groups has many affiliates not only in other Japanese cities but also overseas, such as JKT48 in Indonesia, BNK48 in Thailand and MNL48 in the Philippines.