National

After scandal involving comedians, talent agency boss vows to cut ties with alleged organized crime groups

JIJI

Hiroshi Osaki, chairman of major Japanese talent agency Yoshimoto Kogyo Holdings Co., has stressed the importance of efforts to eliminate connections between its comedians and purported organized crime groups.

“The best way is to strengthen existing measures and continue (with such efforts) tenaciously,” Osaki, 65, said in a recent exclusive interview in Tokyo with Jiji Press.

Osaki made the comments after a recent scandal involving comedians at Yoshimoto Kogyo who performed without the approval of the Osaka-based agency at an event held by a group allegedly involved in money transfer fraud in exchange for payment. After the incident came to light, the company suspended the comedians.

“We take the issue seriously and feel regretful,” he said.

“It’s outrageous to swindle people in weak positions out of money,” Osaki said about the case. “(The comedians who attended the event of the fraudsters) are great fools. We are really sorry,” he said, bowing his head.

Osaki said his agency has already paid taxes on the rewards the comedians received for the performances in question and donated several million yen to a consumer group.

“As long as Yoshimoto exists, we’ll think about what we can do to compensate victims,” Osaki said.

On claims that unstable incomes of comedians are a factor behind such practices, Osaki said, “Would it be good for comedians who just debuted to receive a monthly salary of ¥250,000?”

“Struggles to make new things enhance skills. It’s wrong to conclude that they engage in those activities because they are not paid enough,” Osaki said.

In the past, Shinsuke Shimada, a popular comedian at the agency, retired from the entertainment world following the revelation of his involvement with senior gangsters.

The latest scandal highlighted the problem of Yoshimoto Kogyo comedians not having cut ties with antisocial groups, despite efforts such as lectures by police officers.

“We have been doing our best, and this is the outcome,” Osaki said.

Meanwhile, Osaki denied the possibility of resigning to take responsibility for the problem.

“If it was a scandal involving business operations, resignation might be an option, but this time, it’s not,” he said.