Japan’s Defense Ministry to Punish Top Bureaucrats over ‘Power Harassment,’ After More Than 200 SDF Members Disciplined

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Defense Ministry in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo

The Defense Ministry is determined to impose disciplinary measures on senior bureaucrats, such as those in charge of drafting bills and policy planning, over accusations they abused their power over subordinates, according to government sources.

In 2022, the ministry conducted a special inspection of more than 200,000 Self-Defense Forces personnel about “power harassment” after a female former SDF member made accusations of sexual abuse under her real name.

Last December, the ministry announced it would punish 245 employees, mainly SDF staff called “uniformed officials.”

One commissioned officer equal in rank to a general and whose actions were judged to be particularly egregious was dropped two ranks.

According to the sources, when the ministry made a further probe that included defense bureaucrats, called “officials in suits,” it found evidence of power harassment by senior officials.

The probe found that the officials repeatedly engaged in intimidating speech and behavior toward their subordinates and inflicted psychological harm.

In the SDF, subordinates are required to obey orders from their superiors. This has been said to lead to harassment.

The ministry has put significant effort into amending the situation and has even designated a month focused on stamping out harassment.

But with evidence of power harassment surfacing not only among uniformed SDF staff but also senior defense bureaucrats, the problem appears deeply rooted.