Japan’s public broadcaster apologised Friday to the parents of a young reporter who died of heart failure after logging 159 hours of overtime in a month.
NHK reporter Miwa Sado, 31, who had been covering political news in Tokyo, was found dead in her bed in July 2013, reportedly clutching her mobile phone.
‘The president met the parents at their home in the morning and apologised,’ an NHK spokesman said.
A government inquest a year after her death ruled that it was linked to excessive overtime. She had taken two days off in the month before she died.
NHK eventually made the case public four years later, bowing to pressure from Sado’s parents to take action to prevent a recurrence.
The case has again highlighted the Japanese problem of ‘karoshi’—meaning death from overwork—and is an embarrassing revelation for NHK, which has campaigned against the nation’s long-hours culture.
Sato covered Tokyo assembly elections for the broadcaster in June 2013 and an upper-house vote for the national parliament the following month.
She died three days after the upper-house election.
‘My heart breaks at the thought that she may have wanted to call me’ in her last moments, her mother told the Asahi daily.
‘With Miwa gone, I feel like half of my body has been torn off. I won’t be able to laugh for real for the rest of my life.’
The revelation shocked the nation as NHK has actively reported tragic deaths at other companies, including the 2015 suicide of a young woman at major advertising agency Dentsu who logged more than 100 hours of overtime in one month.
A Tokyo court on Friday ordered Dentsu to pay 500,000 yen ($4,430) as a penalty for allowing its employees, including the young woman, to illegally work excessive overtime hours.
NHK’s chief has pledged to improve work conditions at the broadcaster.
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