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Politics The role of the Unification Church in Japanese politics


Unswerving cyclist
14 Mar 2002
This is a split-off of the thread on Mr Abe's assassination.

In the past few days, the sometimes eerily close relations between Japanese politicians, especially members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, and the Unification Church have come under increased scrutiny by the media. While an extraordinary parliamentary session in autumn will focus on the ties between the cult and Japanese politics, most Japanese political parties have started to probe these ties within their own ranks.

In 1968, Sun Myung Moon, the founder of the Unification Church, established the International Federation for Victory over Communism in Japan. There still is a lot of common ground between the anti-communist group and the political agenda of Abe and other conservative members of the LDP. Recent examples are the amendment of the Japanese constitution, the opposition to same-sex marriage, LGBT issues and the issue of different surnames for spouses. In a video message, Abe expressed his respect for Han Moon's efforts for the peaceful reunification of the Korean peninsula. Abe's assailant, who'd seen the video message, testified to police that he believed the former prime minister was linked to the cult. He said he held a grudge against the cult as his mother's large donations of 100m JPY ruined his family.

Last week, Kwak Chung-hwan, former chairman of the Unification Church, attested to the close ties between the Unification Church and Abe's grandfather, Kishi Nobusuke. (On a side note, Kishi was imprisoned for three years as a suspected Class A war criminal but released by the US government as he was seen as a staunch anti-Communist ally.)

Many Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers are said to have connections with the church. What, if anything, the ruling party intends to do about the matter remains to be seen. Some LDP lawmakers have begun disclosing their connections with the church, which was known formally as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification. Yoshiyuki Inoue, an LDP Upper House lawmaker who was just elected this month, has said he is an informal member of the church but not a religious follower. Inoue was a political affairs secretary to Abe during his first stint as prime minister from 2006 to 2007.

Education minister Shinsuke Suematsu, also an LDP House of Councilors member, acknowledged Friday that two people from the church had bought tickets for his fundraising parties between 2020 and 2021. He denied doing favors for the church or getting help from it during election campaigns.

In the past, followers of the Unification Church have been arrested in Japan and received court orders concerning money illegally obtained from people through threats, including the citing of "ancestral karma." The National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales was established in 1987 to help victims of spiritual sales. According to the lawyers, such sales typically involve followers of the Unification Church. They randomly approach people on the street and offer free fortune-telling without identifying themselves as church members. They later urge their targets to purchase expensive items, often seals, to "shake off bad karma" created by their ancestors.

It is unclear whether the LDP will follow the opposition parties and launch an internal investigation into links with the cult. The reaction of the LDP:

"We must behave ourselves," Hakubun Shimomura, a joint acting chairman of Abe's party faction and former chairman of the LDP's Policy Research Council, told reporters about the party's links to the church.

Last Saturday, TBS aired a comprehensive feature on the ties between the cult and Japanese politicians.

I'm curious to see how long the Japanese media will follow up. The meek reactions of the LDP top brass imply that they'd love to sweep this unpleasant issue under the rug as quickly as possible. More to follow.
Being 72 , I have a lot of friends over 65. I'm always amazed how some become super religious later in life , who had no real interest in religion when they were younger. I get the feeling some of it has to do with death just around the corner , they plan to get right with the Lord. I had it shoved down my throat by my mom , with Sunday school , youth fellowship , regular church until I turned 18 and left home. I tried joining the church during my 40's mid-life crisis , but it went super political so I left. I once was kicked out of my rental apartment because the landlord decided that God & Jesus would pay his mortgage. I often wonder if I'm on my death bed , I will change my mind about religion. My sister seems to be mentally hanging by a thread and it seems religion allows her to handle lifes problems , so I guess in some cases it does good.
Kishi Nobuo, Abe's younger brother and current Minister of Defence, disclosed that he had received help in past elections from members of the Unification Church, becoming the latest ruling party lawmaker to disclose connections with the group at the centre of controversy over the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

"I have associated with a few members (of the church) and received their help as volunteers," Kishi, Abe's younger brother, said at a press conference, adding that he believed they had provided support in a phone campaign aimed at voters. [...] Regarding the help he had received from people affiliated with the group, the defense minister stressed that it was important to have a large number of supporters for an election and that "it would be discussed for each election" whether he would agree to their help in the future. "Since they are only volunteers, I cannot indiscreetly answer what will happen in the next election," Kishi said. [...] But Motegi did not give a clear answer on whether the LDP would conduct investigations into individual party members, saying he would warn them about being "strict and cautious" in their relationships with organizations, given their position as lawmakers.

Kishi Nobuo, Abe's younger brother and current Minister of Defence, disclosed that he had received help in past elections from members of the Unification Church, becoming the latest ruling party lawmaker to disclose connections with the group at the centre of controversy over the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
With all of these politicians having connections one thing is for sure, either nothing will be done or whatever is done will have no effect. :(
Some media, especially Asahi and other left-leaning outlets, keep pushing the issue. While several LDP politicians - as reported above - disclosed their ties with the Unification Church, several others opted "not to comment":

  • Lower House Speaker Hosoda Hiroyuki (from the Abe faction) congratulated the church in a video and praised their contributions to world peace.
  • LDP Upper House member Kitamura Tsuneo of Yamaguchi Prefecture.
  • LDP Upper House member Ejima Kiyoshi, a former vice minister of the Cabinet Office.
  • Lower House member and former secretary-general of the LDP Ishiba Shigeru received a 100,000-yen donation from the publisher in November 2014 from The Sekai Nippo, a publisher and friendship organisation of the church.
  • Lower House member Shimomura Hakubun who served as the LDP's policy chief.
  • LDP Lower House member Yamamoto Tomohiro who served as a vice defence minister.

Asahi also described why many politicians chose the assistance of the church:

Shigeharu Aoyama, an LDP Upper House member, wrote in his blog in mid-July about an incident that occurred when the party was conducting the endorsement process of candidates for the Upper House election. Aoyama was told by a faction leader in the party, "Regarding lawmakers who cannot win only with votes from industry groups, we may allocate the Unification Church's votes to them, if the church approves." The episode indicates a possibility that an LDP kingmaker distributed the votes of church members to candidates needing them. An aide of an LDP lawmaker also said a person related to the church once offered, "May I share my votes with you?"

How does vote allocation work? Do they just direct their followers to vote one way or another?
How does vote allocation work? Do they just direct their followers to vote one way or another?

Yes, I believe this is how it works: "If you want your karma and that of your ancestors to remain unblemished, donate all you can *and* vote for candidate X in the next election."

Honestly, the more we learn about this unsound (or should we say, unholy) collusion, the more people will understand why Mr Yamagami was pushed over the edge.

Recommended reading, also with an insight on the Komeito Party and Soka Gakkai, which basically operate along the same lines as the Unification Church.


And the New Yorker on religiosity in Japan:

Two more insightful pieces on Abe, his relationship with the Unification Church and Mr Yamagami's plight.

The first article looks at "When the chickens came home to roost", alluding to Malcolm X's reply when asked by a reporter about the John F Kennedy assassination, stating that it was a tragedy brought on by America's own pervasive use of violence in every corner of the country. The article looks at Japan's "four chickens":
  • The LDP's cosy relationship with the Unification Church
  • Poverty and despair
  • The ideology of self-responsibility
  • The hollowing out and deterioration of democracy

The other article is authored by Hifumi Okunuki, who teaches labour law at Sagami Women's University and serves as executive president of Tozen Union, a multinational general union. She looks at Abe and Japan's lost generation (to which Mr Yamagami belonged).

Meanwhile, PM Kishida has addressed the issue of LDP ties with the Unification Church for the first time since Abe was shot, urging members of his Cabinet and lawmakers in his Liberal Democratic Party who admitted to having dealings with the former Unification Church to provide fuller explanations of their interactions.

"The general public is highly interested in the topic," Kishida said. But he did not say how the government and the LDP will respond over the many relationships recently revealed between its legislators and the group.

Kishida calls on LDP lawmakers to explain ties to religious group | The Asahi Shimbun: Breaking News, Japan News and Analysis
Fortunately, (some) media and the opposition parties do not allow this topic to be swept under the rug. It's a pity this issue hasn't surfaced well before the last general elections.

Meanwhile, two opposition parties looked into their members' ties with the Unification Church, stating that 16 lawmakers had connections, but not in the form of political donations or organised support in elections.

The 2015 name change of the Unification Church to "Family Federation for World Peace and Unification" also raises eyebrows. It is assumed that the cult had bureaucratic/political support as previous applications for name change had been rejected—more fishiness and suspicion of collusion.

Lucky LDP: the short extraordinary Diet session that began on 3 Aug. and will end on 5 Aug. will not leave enough time to discuss the ties between politicians and the Unification Church. No plans are on the table to take up the issue, which is of huge public interest in the aftermath of the slaying last month of former PM Abe, to great disappointment among former church members:

Former church members were left shaking their heads over the Diet's apparent lack of eagerness to look into links between the church and politicians, with some saying it showed lawmakers were simply not interested in their problems. A woman in her 40s living in Tokyo who joined the church as a teenager due to her mother's influence, said, "I feel a gap in awareness between the general public and politicians." The woman said she was physically abused by the man she married in a mass wedding organized by the Unification Church and also suffered psychological scars because the church forbade divorce. She said she is desperate to learn the extent of dealings between politicians and the church, adding that any inkling of a politician having cozied up to the church in search of votes would be too much for her to bear. "I want the Diet to seriously discuss the relationship between the church and politicians," the woman said as she griped about the lack of attention being given to the issue. A woman in her 30s living in the Kansai region said she faced a difficult time growing up because her mother, who also was a member, donated around 100 million yen ($748,000) to the church. It meant she could not attend senior high school or university. With no plans in the extraordinary Diet session to discuss issues related to the church, the woman said, "I wanted lawmakers to hear the voices of us 'victims' as well as to explain" their ties to the church.

They'll just sit it out, as they did in the past. If the Taiwan situation heats up, all's forgotten.
Asahi on how the Unification Church has changed its tactics to keep a low profile and avoid court cases. The cult shifted from spiritual sales, which leave a footprint, to enforcing followers to donate large sums of money.

A recent example of the church's fraudulent approach involved a woman in her 70s living in Yamaguchi Prefecture. In January, she contacted the National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales, a group that deals with grievances against the church. Spiritual sales are among tactics the church has employed over decades to sell goods, such as pots, seals and other items, at exorbitant prices by playing on the fears of followers and other individuals. The woman, who survives on a pension and part-time work, said she was told by a church follower she was introduced to by an acquaintance that she should donate money to the group to resolve a family matter. "Many of your ancestors were short-lived and they are still suffering in the hell of the spiritual world," she was told by the follower. "That is why your son could not get a job or a marriage partner." The woman said she became extremely anxious about her son and donated in excess of 10 million yen ($74,000) to the church over the course of several years up until 2020. But she later demanded the return of the money, asserting that the follower coerced her into donating money to the church by fanning her anxiety. The issue was settled out of court in April following negotiations involving a lawyer, and the woman was granted 9 million yen in settlement money.

Followers had to sign a "statement of mutual agreement" between them and the cult, compelling them to give up their right to demand the return of their money. Courts often ruled such agreement "invalid" and "running counter to public order and decency."

A former follower in her 60s in Tokyo signed and affixed her seal to an agreement in 2015 that obliged the church to return around 2 million yen she had made in donations as long as she did not demand the return of the remainder. The woman said her total donations from 2013 to 2015, when she left the church, surpassed 6 million yen. She filed a lawsuit against the church, demanding the return of all the money. [...] The court concluded that the woman was forced to sign and affix her seal to the church document that waived her right to claim the money without an explanation.

Makes you wonder why such pseudo-religious scam operations are allowed to operate. :mad:

Seems too many politicians everywhere are in it for profit & power , not to help.
I mean, you have news articles above that tell you why. Because of the politicians they buy.

Yes, sorry, my comment was of more rhetorical nature and driven by anger. Reading about those individual cases of "religious sales" and spiritual thievery, one cannot help feeling overwhelmed with disgust. Also, where were the opposition parties? Bought as well?
Yes, sorry, that was of more rhetorical nature and driven by anger. Reading about those individual cases of "religious sales" and spiritual thievery, one cannot help feeling overwhelmed with disgust. Also, where were the opposition parties? Bought as well?
It's a tough cycle, once the churches are rich and powerful enough, they become that much more difficult for opposition to go after them, no matter what they do. It takes something pretty high profile to even put them on the public's radar and get any movement.

Here in the states, the televangelists and evangelical cults have taken over right wing politics. Before Reagan, the separation of church and state was much more solid, and proper christians considered it gauche or immoral to get involved in politics. That separation has completely eroded away, and elected officials are now proudly proclaiming themselves to be "christian nationalists." I think "nationalist christians,"-- or "Nat-C's" for short--is far catchier and more appropriate.

People have always sought understanding, belonging and community wherever they can find it, and there's always been grifting scumbags willing to say anything to control and exploit them. Cult mentality is a plague on humanity.
-- or "Nat-C's" for short--is far catchier and more appropriate.

😆 (y)

One more piece on the "religious sales" mentioned above:

In Mercari Inc.'s flea market app, a set of two jars and a two-story pagoda ornament were priced at 800,000 yen (about $6,000) as of the end of July, while a jar featuring a dragon had a price tag of 260,000 yen (roughly $1,950). The explanation for one item read, "I'd most like the religious group to take it back. Essentially, I want them to refund the 4.7 million yen (approx. $35,000), the purchase price for the item." Another said, "My mother was forced into buying this by an acquaintance when she entered the religion. I'm selling it as I'm struggling to make ends meet." Used smartphones promoted as "items given by executives" are offered at prices ranging from somewhere around 100,000 yen (approx. $750) to 400,000 yen (about $3,000). Some of the gadgets apparently had broken displays. One item was accompanied with the explanation, "An executive gave this to my grandmother, who has donated tens of millions of yen (at least $150,000). They say you'll get divine help if you carry this in your bag." There was even a battery charger on offer for 50,000 yen (approx. $380).

Definitely a step in the right direction, but years too late. And we haven't heard of any consequences for those politicians with ties to the cult. Smoke screens.

In anticipation of more complaints from victims of the controversial Unification Church, the government said Thursday it would coordinate between ministries and agencies to support people with grievances against the religious group, with plans to launch a campaign next month for victims so they can seek advice over their problems. On Thursday, senior officials from the Justice Ministry, Cabinet Secretariat, National Police Agency and Consumers Affairs Agency held their first meeting to discuss the group, agreeing to hold the campaign for about a month from early September, with full details yet to be hammered out.

Last week, the Unification Church organised a protest in Seoul criticising the "negative Japanese media coverage". About 4,000 cultists gathered, most of them Japanese followers living in South Korea.


The protesters, primarily Japanese followers who settled in South Korea after marrying Korean spouses, insisted the Japanese reports were being driven by anti-Unification Church pundits, lawyers and Protestant pastors who "groundlessly" blamed their church for Abe's death. They said such media reports and commentary had unsettled the church's Japanese followers. The latter already face social persecution and fears of being pressured by family members to recant their faith. There have been cases where Japanese Unification Church followers were kidnapped or confined by relatives attempting to deprogram them from their religion. An extreme case involved a man named Toru Goto, who was confined in a Tokyo apartment for more than 12 years until 2008 as family members tried to force him to renounce his faith. Protesters at the Seoul rally chanted slogans denouncing the situation in Japan as religious repression. They waved signs in Korean and Japanese that read "Stop the assault on human rights" and "Never forgive the business of kidnapping and confinement."

It is absurd to denounce the situation in Japan as "religious repression", as the fury levelled against the cult is not related to their religion per se but their illegitimate business methods.

Last week, the Japanese Cabinet confirmed that the "unique group" requiring particular concern mentioned in 2005 and 2006 government reports on domestic and world affairs were the Unification Church.

In the 2005 report, the domestic affairs section included a subheading titled "unique group." Without giving a name, it reported the existence of a "group that established a new organisation to gather Koreans living in Japan, and that exhibited attempts to extend its influence by incorporating these Zainichi Koreans and affiliated parties." After indicating that there were other such unique groups, it stated that they "are attempting to expand their power by inciting a sense of danger and anxiety" and that "the groups' unique language and conduct need to be continuously monitored." The 2006 edition also contained the "unique group" subheading. It introduced it as "a group that advocates the unification of the Korean Peninsula and that has made moves to create friction with Zainichi organisations by making Zainichi Koreans and affiliated parties attend gatherings in South Korea and through other means." The report stated that there were concerns the groups would cause criminal incidents.

The sections on the Unification Church disappeared from the 2007 report, published during Shinzo Abe's first tenure as prime minister. It must be a sheer coincidence.

Last Friday, 1,200 protesters gathered in Tokyo to oppose the state funeral for Abe.

Ken Takada, 77, a co-leader of the committee that organised the protest, said, "There is a plan to hold the state funeral even though public opinion surveys show that more than half of respondents oppose the plan." A 40-year-old company employee from Chiba Prefecture who participated in a protest for the first time said, "I came to raise my voice because I felt that if the state funeral were held while I remained silent, that would be the same as if I had consented." A 77-year-old woman from Tokyo's Meguro Ward pointed to several scandals that dogged Abe, including allegations about favourable government treatment for the Kake Educational Institution and Moritomo Gakuen. "The state funeral would be a way to place a cap on criticism of such scandals and force the public to praise" Abe, she said.

Also, last Friday, lawyers and citizens submitted lawsuits to prefectural auditors in Hokkaido, Kyoto, Osaka and Hyogo, asking that they not release public funds to allow governors and prefectural assembly chairs to attend the state funeral.

An eye-opening account by former Diet member Miyajima Yoshifumi on how he won a seat in the 2016 Upper House election with organizational support from a group associated with the Unification Church, which he felt placed him under some obligation to repay the debt in small ways. The group secured him between 60,000 and 70,000 votes.

And last but not least, a Mainichi poll shows the Kishida Cabinet support rate plummet 16 points to just 36% in the wake of the Shinzo Abe legacy issues. Eighty-seven per cent of Japanese say LDP ties with Unification Church are a "problem." Nearly two-thirds (64%) say it's a "serious problem."

I've been listening to "The Influence Continuum," a podcast by Dr. Steve Hassan, who is a former member of the Moonie cult (which has since rebranded as the Unification church at the heart of this scandal). After he was freed from their influence he dedicated his life to studying cults and helping deprogram victims of cults:

It's absolutely wild that this group has persisted and grown in influence, so it's a relief to see at least some scrutiny finally coming to bear. One of Moon's sons has formed his own insane evangelical gun-worshipping church in the US, and was present at the January 6 attacks on the capitol. This is not just a harmless religion.
In his first public appearance since he contracted Covid-19 last week, PM Kishida apologised for his party's ties to the Unification Church, saying the LDP would cut all ties with the cult.

Kishida said at the news conference that he has instructed LDP Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi to survey the party fully over any other members' ties to the church. Kishida said he is rushing the effort but it may take time because the review will span decades. Kishida apologized for the loss of public trust because of the scandal and his lack of explanation for organizing a state funeral for Abe, one of most divisive leaders in Japan's postwar history.

He would explain to the public and the opposition parties why hedeems a state funeral for former PM Abe necessary.

The state funeral scheduled for Sept. 27 has split public opinion. The only other state funeral in postwar Japan was for former Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida, who signed the San Francisco Treaty that restored ties with the Allies and ended the U.S. occupation of Japan. Kishida's Cabinet last week allocated at least a 250 million yen ($1.8 million) budget to invite about 6,000 guests for the funeral at the Budokan arena in Tokyo. Kishida insisted that Abe deserved a state funeral because of his achievement in raising Japan's global profile as its longest-serving postwar leader. He said Japan must respond with courtesy to "outpouring of condolences" from foreign leaders and legislations.

So not only does he use international condolences as an excuse to burn hundreds of millions of tax yen only to appease the right-wing members of Abe's former faction, but he is also willing to risk the wrath of the Japanese population rather than cancel that farce. 😵

Masaue Sakurai, former deputy director of the family education department of the Unification Church, gave a rare interview in which he admitted that the cult acted "clearly against public morality" as it has imposed an unreasonable quota for donations on its churches across Japan, causing many followers to go bankrupt. Sakurai, 48, said his father was a former president of the Unification Church in Japan. His mother had been a believer since the late 1950s, even before the group was incorporated as a religious organization in the country. He worked for roughly 20 years at the group's Japanese headquarters. He was confronted with the issue of donations whenever he was asked for family education advice.

While Sakurai declined to be photographed, his photo and biography can be found in a public letter published by a cult magazine.

Some followers even donated savings that their children had earned from part-time jobs to put themselves through university. Sakurai said he had long felt uncomfortable with the situation but could not speak out for fear of appearing to lack faith. He also said because of the donation quotas imposed by the headquarters on regional churches, many families had fallen into debt or become bankrupt. "Many people at the headquarters were aware that the donation issue was a problem," he said. His remarks on the group's pressure on followers to make huge donations match what Tetsuya Yamagami, Abe's assailant, is said to have told investigators about how his mother's massive donations, reportedly amounting 100 million yen ($716,000), had ruined his family.

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