The ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) has come under fire for using a catchphrase in an anti-suicide campaign that evokes images of popular all-girl group AKB48.
During discussions in the Diet on Monday, a DPJ member called the anti-suicide slogan “deeply inappropriate,” TBS reported.
The catchphrase, which was unveiled last month, has already been criticized by mental health professionals, as well as members of both the DPJ and opposition parties for the way in which it apparently handles the issue of suicide, while simultaneously leveraging the popularity of AKB48.
In Japanese, the slogan reads “Anata mo GKB47 sengen!” (“Declare yourself part of GKB47!”). The acronym GK is short for “gatekeeper,” which in Japan is used to refer to a person who recognizes symptoms of depression in someone else and recommends that they seek treatment, while the B stands for “basic,” which is reportedly an attempt to imply that suicide prevention is everybody’s duty and requires no specialist training.
The 47 refers to the country’s 47 prefectures.
DPJ member Daigo Matsuura brought a poster of the slogan into the Diet and criticized it for trivializing such a serious issue with its “utterly improper” use of the AKB48 brand, TBS reported.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda also expressed misgivings, during a question-and-answer session. “To speak plainly, I too felt uncomfortable. I think I’d like to see further research conducted on the matter,” he said, according to TBS.
Deputy Prime Katsuya Okada admitted that the DPJ should have asked more party members how they felt about it. He told reporters Tuesday night that he will order the slogan withdrawn.
In 2011, the number of people who committed suicide in Japan was 30,513, surpassing 30,000 for the 14th straight year, according to the health ministry.