EXPLAINER: The Unification Church’s ties to Japan’s politics


TOKYO (AP) — The assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has unearthed lengthy-suspected, very little-talked-of hyperlinks concerning him and a spiritual group that started off in South Korea but has distribute its impact about the planet.

Police and Japanese media have proposed that the alleged attacker, Tetsuya Yamagami, who was arrested on the place, was furious about Abe’s claimed ties to the Unification Church, which has pursued interactions with politically conservative teams and leaders in the United States, Japan and Europe. The suspect reportedly was upset mainly because his mother’s enormous donations to the church bankrupted the household.

A lot of Japanese have been amazed as revelations emerged this 7 days of the ties amongst the church and Japan’s top rated leaders, which have their roots in shared anti-communism initiatives during the Cold War. Analysts say it could guide individuals to study more carefully how powerfully the ruling party’s conservative worldviews have steered the policies of modern-day Japan.

A seem at the church and its deep ties to Japan’s governing social gathering and Abe’s personal relatives:



The church was started in Seoul in 1954, a year soon after the stop of the Korean War, by the late Rev. Sunshine Myung Moon, the self-proclaimed messiah who preached new interpretations of the Bible and conservative, spouse and children-oriented price methods.

The church championed anti-communism and the unification of the Korean Peninsula, which has been split involving the totalitarian North and democratic South.

The church is maybe ideal acknowledged for mass weddings exactly where it paired off couples, normally from different international locations, and renewed the vows of these by now married, at major, open up areas such as stadiums and gymnasiums. The team is said to have a worldwide membership of thousands and thousands, such as hundreds of 1000’s in Japan.

The church faced accusations in the 1970s and ’80s of using devious recruitment methods and brainwashing adherents into turning about enormous parts of their salaries to Moon. The church has denied this kind of allegations, expressing several new spiritual actions confronted identical accusations in their early yrs.

In Japan, the team has faced lawsuits for presenting “spiritual merchandise” that allegedly prompted customers to acquire high-priced art and jewelry or provide their authentic estate to elevate donations for the church.



During his lifetime, Moon labored to change his church into a globally religious movement and extend its business enterprise and charitable actions. Moon was convicted of tax evasion in 1982 and served a prison expression in New York. He died in 2012.

The church has developed relations with conservative globe leaders including U.S. presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and more just lately Donald Trump.

Moon also had ties with North Korea’s founder Kim Il Sung, the late grandfather of recent ruler Kim Jong Un.

Moon stated in his autobiography that he questioned Kim to give up his nuclear ambitions, and that Kim responded that his atomic program was for tranquil functions and he had no intention to use it to “kill (Korean) compatriots.”



Abe was identified for his arch-conservative views on protection and historical past troubles and also was backed by effective lobbies this kind of as the Nippon Kaigi. He appeared in occasions structured by church affiliates, like a single in September 2021.

In a movie revealed on a large display at the conference of church-relevant Universal Peace Federation, or UPF, Abe praised its do the job toward peace on the Korean Peninsula and the group’s aim on relatives values. An emphasis on classic, paternalistic relatives devices was 1 of Abe’s essential positions.

“I value UPF’s focus on relatives values,” he reported in the video clip. “Let’s be knowledgeable of so-identified as social innovative actions with narrow-minded values.”

Reports of his visual appeal in the 2021 occasion drew criticisms from the Japanese Communist Celebration and cult watchers, like a team of lawyers who have viewed the Unification Church routines and supported its alleged victims.

In a information meeting Monday just after the church’s link to Abe’s assassination was discovered, the church’s leader in Japan, Tomohiro Tanaka, reported Abe supported UPF’s peace movement but that he was not a member.

Police however have not publicly discovered the group cited by the suspect, presumably to stay clear of inciting violence.



The ties amongst the church and Japan’s governing get together go back to Abe’s grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, who served as key minister and shared anxieties with Washington around the spread of communism in Japan in the 1960s as labor union activists obtained energy.

Kishi, who was arrested as a war legal but never ever billed, was identified for his appropriate-wing political views, and the Unification Church’s anti-communist stance matched his sights of Japan’s national passions, professionals say.

Kishi’s shut romance with the church was publicly acknowledged. The church headquarters at one particular level was housed in a constructing subsequent to Kishi’s Tokyo home, and he was observed with Moon in shots taken at the church and revealed in team publications. Media experiences say the suspect thought that Kishi brought the church to Japan.

“Japanese leaders at the time observed the church as a instrument to promote anti-communist views in Japan,” mentioned Masaki Kito, a law firm and pro on spiritual enterprises. For the team, showcasing near ties with outstanding politicians was a way to get endorsement for its exercise.

Ties in between church-affiliated organizations and Liberal Democratic Bash lawmakers produced around many years because the church expanded, delivering reliable political help and votes for the governing social gathering, experts say, while the group denied it.

A study of 128 lawmakers received from police and revealed in the Weekly Gendai magazine in 1999 showed most attended events organized by the Unification Church’s anti-communism affiliate, the Intercontinental Federation for Victory Around Communism, also funded by Moon, and extra than 20 LDP lawmakers had at minimum just one church member in their offices as a volunteer.



The church denied any favorable therapy by Kishi when it opened a Japan branch. Tanaka stated Abe supported present leader Hak Ja Han Moon’s peace movement, but denied any movement of money concerning the group and the LDP.

The church claimed Monday it experienced no data showing that Yamagami was a member. The church explained it had experienced no immediate romantic relationship with Abe, despite the fact that it interacted with other lawmakers by means of an affiliated group.

Users of the National Network of Legal professionals In opposition to Non secular Income, who watch the church, say they have frequently questioned Abe and other LDP lawmakers to cease showing at or sending messages to the functions organized by the Unification Church or affiliates although ignoring the long-standing church-related problems.


WHAT DOES IT Signify FOR THE Get together?

“The assassination is shedding a light on the Unification Church,” mentioned Koichi Nakano, an worldwide politics professor at Sophia College in Tokyo. “The church’s connection with the LDP’s correct-wing factions and its ultra-appropriate-wing guidelines could occur under near scrutiny,” and direct to a reevaluation of Abe’s legacy.

It could direct to revelations of how the party’s views have distorted postwar Japanese modern society, although stalling progress of gender equality and sexual range problems, Nakano said.

Takuya Tasso, the governor of Iwate in northern Japan, claimed Friday that as a former bureaucrat and countrywide lawmaker he knew about the LDP’s links to the church and he explained its alleged influence on voting and governing administration procedures need to be thoroughly investigated.


Associated Press author Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea, contributed.


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