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Japan weekly pulls issue over 'child porn' pic

TOKYO -- A Japanese magazine that ran a picture of a child in a provocative pose with a naked pop singer was pulled from stores because it contravened “socially accepted standards,” its publisher said Tuesday.

Around 670,000 copies of the weekly magazine were removed ahead of its planned sale last Saturday because of a storm over the photograph, which showed singer Tomomi Kasai with a young, apparently Caucasian or Eurasian child.

The blond-haired boy is shown reaching from behind to cup the breasts of 21-year-old Kasai, who until last year was a member of highly successful all-girl group AKB48, as she stares into the camera.

The photograph was on an inside page of Young Magazine, one of Japan's most popular weekly periodicals, and was released as part of a publicity drive for a book of pictures of Kasai produced by the same firm.

Publisher Kodansha pulled the magazine after a storm of negative reaction.

A spokesman told AFP the company accepted there was a problem with the shot, but declined to offer an opinion on whether the image fell foul of Japan's child pornography laws.

“Whether or not it is child porn, it infringes on socially accepted standards,” he said.

“We want to go back to the basics of ethics in publishing,” he said, adding that the firm plans to re-issue the magazine and the book — entitled “Tomo no koto, suki?” (Do You Like Tomo?) — without the controversial image.

Former prosecutor and Internet crime expert Yochi Ochiai, took to Twitter to declare his opinion that the picture fitted the definition of child pornography under Japanese law.

“If prosecuted by investigative authorities, I believe it is almost certain that this would be recognized as child porn,” he wrote on his blog.

Japan's huge publishing sector includes magazines and graphic comics containing images that may be considered obscene in other developed countries. It is not uncommon to see people reading such material on commuter trains.

Young Magazine, which has a sizable readership of mostly young men, publishes comic strips on a variety of themes including definitive works such as the science fiction “Akira,” which became a cult movie series.

AKB48 is one of the world's highest-grossing acts. It comprises a 90-strong pool of girls in their teens and early 20s who are rotated in and out of the public eye, based on their popularity.

Idols who have left the collective have had varying degrees of success, with at least one turning to pornography.

Kasai's debut single was released in late December.

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