Japan’s Leader Hurt by New Disclosures Over Ties to Right-Wing Education Group
TOKYO — The leader of a scandal-tainted Japanese education group known for extreme right-wing views said Thursday that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had donated money to it in 2015, a claim that directly contradicted accounts by Abe.
The assertion, if true, has the potential to inflict significant political damage on Abe. The group’s leader, Yasunori Kagoike, did not immediately offer evidence to back up his claim.
Accusations that Kagoike received improper financial favors from the government have escalated into a scandal that has dominated headlines in Japan and hurt Abe’s approval ratings.
Kagoike’s extreme views have become a contentious issue in Japan, partly because of his links to prominent political figures. A kindergarten operated by his group seeks to promote “patriotism and pride” by reviving elements of Japan’s militaristic prewar education system. He has been accused of making derogatory statements about Koreans.
His political connections took on a newly troubling dimension after it emerged last month that officials had allowed Kagoike’ group, Moritomo Gakuen, to buy government-owned land at a discount. The land was to be used for an elementary school, for which Moritomo Gakuen has been soliciting funds and drawing encouragement from the right.
Abe’s wife, Akie, has been a prominent supporter, serving until recently as “honorary principal” of the planned school. She resigned the position last month amid the escalating furor.
But Abe has denied that he had direct personal links to the group.
“He did not donate money, or donate through Akie or his office or any third party,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the government spokesman, said on Thursday after Kagoike made his assertion.
Previously Abe had said he would quit politics if he or his wife were found to have influenced official dealings with Moritomo Gakuen.
Atsuo Ito, a political analyst, said that while a donation by Abe of his own money would have been legal, it would be “an ethical problem” for him, because “it could mean his statements until now have been lies, which would be a big incident that would shake the government.”
Kagoike said he recalled having receiving donations in September 2015 “including money donated by Abe.”
He did not elaborate but said he would provide more information to Parliament.