National / Politics

Vice labor minister quits over alleged plan to take bribes for easing entry of foreign labor into Japan

Kyodo

A vice labor minister quit Wednesday amid allegations that he planned to solicit bribes from a temp agency in return for his help with speeding up visa procedures for foreign nationals the agency intended to dispatch to Japanese firms, labor minister Takumi Nemoto said.

The resignation of Hiroshi Ueno, a parliamentary vice minister at the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, is another blow to the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which has already lost multiple senior officials to scandals in recent months.

The Shukan Bunshun weekly magazine reported last week that Ueno had been seeking ¥2 million in exchange for pressuring Justice Ministry officials to quickly process documents needed to issue visas for 100 foreign nationals that the temp agency Neo Career Co. planned to dispatch.

Ueno denied pressuring the Justice Ministry in an unlawful manner but said in a statement he quit because the allegations “could cause misunderstanding” among the public due to his role.

Nemoto declined to comment on Ueno’s replacement when he was asked by reporters about it at the Prime Minister’s Office.

Opposition parties demanded Ueno offer an explanation about the allegation. “He should not just quit but tell the truth,” said Seiji Osaka, policy chief of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

Ueno, a 48-year-old member of Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, is currently serving his second term in the House of Representatives after a term in the House of Councilors.

After graduating from the University of Tokyo, he entered the then-Ministry of International Trade and Industry and earned a postgraduate degree from Harvard University, according to his website. His father-in-law is Kosei Ueno, a former deputy chief Cabinet secretary.

Ueno’s departure from the Abe administration comes on the heels of the resignation of Olympics minister Yoshitaka Sakurada and Ichiro Tsukada, a senior vice land minister, both in April.

Sakurada, known for his gaffes, was effectively sacked following remarks that appeared to make light of Tohoku and the devastation caused by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Tsukada was forced to quit after suggesting he had acted in the interests of Abe and Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso over a road project in their constituencies.

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