Isshu Sugawara, who headed the Japanese economy, trade and industry ministry that is spearheading its export restrictions to South Korea, resigned as minister. The resignation came 44 days after his inauguration on September 11. Watchers say he voluntarily stepped down amid growing suspicion that he had paid bribes to voters.
“The parliamentary review of economy, industry, administration, and the government came to a halt due to issues over myself. I take this gravely and seriously,” Sugawara said in a public apology during a press conference after tendering his resignation letter to Prime Minster Shinzo Abe on Friday. The outgoing minister was scheduled to appear at the Japanese Diet to address his suspicion, but chose to tender resignation instead.
“I was responsible for appointing him,” Abe said after accepting the resignation. “I deeply apologize to the people.” The prime minister has named Hiroshi Kajiyama, former minister in charge of regulatory reform, to replace Sugawara.
Diplomatic sources said as the economy, trade and industry minister, has resigned due to irregularities some 40 days after inauguration, related policies will also face disruptions. Sugawara’s predecessor Hiroshige Seko, a Liberal Democratic Party leader in the House of Councilors in the Diet, was also suspected of taking bribes from Kansai Electric Power recently.