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TOKYO, March 31 (Xinhua) -- Revelations this week that large numbers of officials from Japan's education ministry have been involved in illegally helping their colleagues secure top-notch retirement jobs has forced the government to concede the illegal practice is endemic and likely spans other sectors.
A probe was launched two months ago by the education ministry and Cabinet Office into the illegal practice known locally here as "amakudari" (descent from heaven).
The practice involves current or former bureaucrats using their career-made connections through the ministry to find highly desirable jobs for retired or soon-to-be-retired bureaucrats.
Following the latest investigation, it was found that on top of 27 cases that initially shocked the nation involving ministry officials deliberately dodging laws to quash the illegal practice, 35 more ministry-linked officials have also been involved in "amakudari" offenses.
Sixty two cases in total, thus far, have been unearthed by the probe which covered all education ministry employees as well as retired officials.
An "unprecedented" 43 officials have already been disciplined, with 37 of them receiving punishments on Thursday alone, the education ministry said.
The practice of "amakudari" was effectively banned in 2007 when legislation was changed regarding the re-employment of civil servants, largely due to the potential for corruption.
But those found guilty recently almost certainly side-stepped the law by using retired civil servants to deal with the illegal job placements, informed sources have said.
Japanese Education Minister Hirokazu Matsuno said Thursday that it was highly regrettable that the ministry had to deal with such an unprecedented large number of offenses and added his ministry would change its human resources practices and organizational structure.
The embattled education ministry acknowledged that its officials have been involved in making "systematic efforts" in arranging such lobbying for jobs.
Matsuno conceded that the education ministry had through its involvement in the job placement racket lost the trust of the public.
The most recent round of "amakudari" scandals came to light in January this year when it was discovered that a former bureau chief who was in charge of overseeing colleges and universities "landed" a cushy professor post at a private university soon after retirement.
With the practice of "amakudari" seemingly ingrained into the cultural fabric of the education ministry, it was not a great leap for investigators to assume that the practice was likely occurring in other public sectors, with the foreign ministry here confirming that this was indeed the case.
Following a report on the probe being released Thursday, Japan's soon-to-be-former ambassador to Bulgaria Shinichi Yamanaka was found to be guilty of the illegal practice when he served at the education ministry.
Furthermore, Japan's foreign ministry said it had charged a former head of its human resources department for passing on a resume for preferential treatment by the education ministry in securing a job.
The report itself revealed that high-ranking officials knew the practice of "amakudari" was endemic and that ministry bigwigs had been involved in the scheme's creation and implementation.
Previously, former vice minister Kihei Maekawa, who stepped down from the top bureaucratic spot over the scandal, was named as being involved in the job placement racket.
A list of prestigious universities that employed former ministry bureaucrats through the illegal scheme has also been made available to investigators.
The now government-wide investigation since ordered by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is to find out how deeply-entrenched the illegal practice is within the public sector and how many other ministry's are involved.
Abe's top government spokesperson Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said after the scandal came to light that the government has been ordered to flush out the issue from scratch at all ministries and agencies.
With cases involving the education ministry specifically, he said it was unallowable and highly problematic for the authority in charge of education to have been entangled in the practice.
Regarding the likelihood the racket spans other sectors, he said the public will be made aware of the full results of the investigation.