Increasing numbers of Japanese students are traveling overseas for intern-style placements, despite the possibility of being left disoriented and vulnerable when arriving in an unfamiliar location.
A female university student from Tokyo went missing Aug. 15 after arriving in Bucharest. A body, believed to be that of 20-year-old Yurika Masuno, was later found.
"Given the latest case, we will advise students to avoid flights arriving at night and to contact host organizations upon arrival," said an official at the Overseas Human Resources and Industry Development Association. The association arranges internships in Southeast Asia and China.
"We can give safety guidance if students take part in school-approved programs, but in other cases it's largely left to intermediary agencies," an official at a private university in Tokyo said.
Overseas internships are increasingly popular, offering young Japanese workers and volunteers a chance to get work experience in an international environment.
This year, Japan's industry ministry inaugurated one such dispatch program mainly for students. The Overseas Human Resources and Industry Development Association says it handled 250 applicants this year, up from about 50 several years ago.
"Students can take part in an overseas internship program for two or three weeks during the summer break," an official said. "A study-abroad program would often require them to take a leave of absence."
During overseas study programs, universities often keep a close eye on student support. However, they are more detached when interns take a non-academic post.
One former intern said local staff met him upon arrival in Europe, but he remained vulnerable and later was mugged for cash in a side street.
In the Romania incident, sources said Masuno, who was from Hyogo Prefecture, had flown to Bucharest after accepting a Japanese language teaching post in the city of Craiova.
A witness at the airport says a man apparently offered to help Masuno reach her destination. The two took a taxi together, but got off at a bus stop near the airport. Two days later, a body was found in a nearby wood. Masuno's luggage was nearby, but her purse and valuables were reportedly missing.
Local media said an autopsy found that the victim had been likely strangled.
The 26-year-old Romanian man witnessed at the airport has been arrested but reportedly denies murder, telling police he left Masuno waiting for a bus.
Japan's embassy in Romania has released few details, and AIESEC Japan, a nonprofit student organization that is believed to have arranged the program, said it would not discuss the case. Both cited the wishes of the victim's family.
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