A no trespassing sign is placed outside the Unification Church in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: A no trespassing sign is placed outside the entrance of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, more commonly known as the Unification Church is seen at its Tokyo headquarters in Tokyo, Japan August 29, 2022. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon Photo: Reuters/KIM KYUNG-HOON
politics

Gov't begins Unification Church probe amid anger over ties with ruling party

16 Comments
By Tim Kelly and Kaori Kaneko

Japan launched a probe into the Unification Church on Tuesday that could threaten its legal status, after the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in July revealed its close ties to the ruling party and triggered a public backlash.

For the Unification Church, founded in South Korea in 1954 and relying on its Japan followers as a key source of income, the investigation could deliver a severe financial blow, affecting its tax exemptions and even its property holdings.

The stakes are also high for Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's government, teetering at an approval rate of just 30% and eager to quell the uproar over links to the Unification Church, which forced the resignation of his economic revitalisation minister last month.

"For Kishida, it's clear that this is a huge drag on him. He's going to be linked to the Unification Church issue no matter what," said Levi McLaughlin, an associate professor at North Carolina State University studying religion in Japan.

The government has given the Unification Church until Dec 9 to answer an initial series of questions about its finances and organization, Culture Minister Keiko Nagaoka told a news conference.

After gathering evidence, the ministry will decide whether to seek a court order revoking the Unification Church's legal standing, which could take several months and be followed by a lengthy legal battle.

The Unification Church expects to receive the first batch of government questions on Wednesday and will cooperate with the investigation, a spokesperson for the group in Japan said.

A senior church official at its South Korean headquarters added: "Japan is a democratic country that guarantees the freedom of religion, so we are closely monitoring the situation."

Shiori Kanno, a lawyer on a Consumer Affairs Agency panel looking into the church's practice of selling ginseng drinks, marble sculptures and other items to raise money from followers, said she expects the case to go all the way to the Supreme Court if the government ends up seeking to legally disband the church.

"The church would lose tax exemptions such as those on donations from members," she said. "It will find it harder to borrow money."

She added, however, that losing its status as a religious organization would not prevent the church from continuing its activities or its members from meeting.

When Tetsuya Yamagami was arrested for the killing of former Prime Minister Abe in July, he blamed the religious organization for impoverishing his family and said Abe, who had appeared at events sponsored by Unification Church-affiliated groups, had promoted it.

The Unification Church, known globally for its mass weddings, says it has stopped soliciting donations that create financial hardships for its followers and has curtailed aggressive door-to-door sales of church goods, after convictions a decade ago related to such practices prompted its then-leader in Japan to resign.

With the spotlight on the church's activities, however, Kishida has come under pressure to address public anger, stoked by revelations that more than half of all lawmakers in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party had links to the church.

The uproar has persisted despite a cabinet reshuffle on Aug. 10 that purged some senior figures with links to the church. In late October, Economic Revitalization Minister Daishiro Yamagiwa resigned after revealing that he, too, had ties to the church.

Kishida will be particularly keen to put the issue behind him before a series of local elections next April, when his party will face voters on a national scale for the first time since winning the July upper house election that immediately followed Abe's death.

© Thomson Reuters 2022.

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

16 Comments
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None of this would have come to light had it not been for the drastic actions of Tetsuya Yamagami. The so-called church would still be taking huge sums of money and fostering ties with the government.

5 ( +20 / -15 )

Japan's government on Tuesday launched a probe into the Unification Church, the first step in a process that could strip the group of its legal status amid public anger over its links to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's ruling party.

You kind of wonder what they were doing for the last 1-2 months? Not exactly in a rush, are they?

2 ( +14 / -12 )

They won't do a thing about it. They'll promise transparency, ask lawmakers to absolve ties with the group (but none will), and ultimately say it cannot be helped and they cannot punish people who work with the church. Then, they'll simply hope people have their usual short memories here so they can start taking money from them again.

-4 ( +13 / -17 )

How long will the Japanese media continue this farce? Why does the media criticise the UC, which has committed neither kidnapping nor murder, calling it a cult, while defending Aum, the Soka Gakkai, the Federation of Korean Industries, North Korean schools and the Communist Party, which have repeatedly committed murder, abduction and indiscriminate terrorism?

In the past, the media and opposition parties were complicit in Aum's indiscriminate murderous terrorism. Sugio, who collaborated in the murder of lawyer Sakamoto and his family, is now a member of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan. Why has he not been arrested for the cult terrorism?

The media, which was involved in Abe's assassination and calls him a cult demon, but switches the top news with the topic of THE UC every time a missile from North Korea or China flies over, once failed to report Aum's terrorist attacks and tried to falsely accuse the innocent neighbours of the crime scene. Now the media is repeating the same thing. Foreigners living in Japan and the foreign reporters should be well aware of this fact.

-16 ( +2 / -18 )

Why does the media criticise the UC, which has committed neither kidnapping nor murder, calling it a cult, while defending Aum

When did the media defend Aum?

And yes, UC IS a highly manipulative organisation preying on people's fears and organising mass weddings of people who don't know each other, AKA a cult. Suck it up, sugar.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

They are investigating themselves... What a sham. Lawmakers? Lawbreakers more apt.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

Totally Independent, Judge lead inquiry will come some way to transparency.

Politicians under oath, in open court must submit evidence under cross examination.

Nothing less.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Gov't begins Unification Church probe amid anger over ties with ruling party

Thought I was experiencing deja vu but...

https://japantoday.com/category/politics/japan-decides-to-probe-unification-church-eyes-stripping-status#comment-3339946

https://japantoday.com/category/politics/japan-pm-orders-probe-into-unification-church-kyodo#comment-3296621

https://japantoday.com/category/politics/japan-discussing-guidelines-for-unification-church-probe#comment-3310937

https://japantoday.com/category/politics/japan-decides-to-probe-unification-church-eyes-stripping-status#comments

The LDP doing what it does best when it wants to cover up its own corruption or that of cronies. Dragging its feet.

-5 ( +4 / -9 )

Widespread links between the church and lawmakers in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) came to light...

So, in essence, Japan is run by South Korea through these demented geezer. Are you surprised?

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Pekka

How long will the Japanese media continue this farce? Why does the media criticise the UC, which has committed neither kidnapping nor murder, calling it a cult, while defending Aum, the Soka Gakkai, the Federation of Korean Industries, North Korean schools and the Communist Party, which have repeatedly committed murder, abduction and indiscriminate terrorism?

What are you talking about?

The Federation of Korean Industries, North Korean schools, and the Communist Party are not religious organizations.

Only Aum Shinrikyo committed murder, abduction, and terrorism. The government was unable to ban the Aum Shinrikyo. Public Security Commission decided unanimously on Jan. 31, 1997, to turn down a request to outlaw Aum Shinrikyo under the Antisubversive Activities.

The U.S. removed Aum Shinrikyo, from the foreign terrorism blacklist. May 2022.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

i dont expect any outcome from it maybe some small fish will be punished somehow but probelm is system and connection ldp and moonies.

if they really wants solve this honestly moonies have to be banned assets seized bank accounts frozen,bosses sent to jail and than investigate properly and in details.but ldp crooks have million reawons why they will not do that.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Notably there is no mention of the probe investigating the church's links to politicians (or vice versa).

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I really doubt very much that anything would change, the Cult will continue to operate with or without the tax status, they will make it up by squeezing more donations or selling some of their assets. somewhere down the road they will make a come back and be at it again. weak minded and desperate followers will be sucked out of every yen they got and the government can't do anything about it.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Dear LDP,

South Korean Unification Church abused our citizens on Japanese soil and land!

Single Women, mothers with small children, old people and young couples have all become victims of UC!

The killer of Abe, his Mother was abused by UC, made to donate everything she had from her husband death! His brother committed Suicide because of it! He tried to committ Suicide himself but survived! His Family has been destroyed by this disgusting South Korean manipulation and brainwashing!

North Korean Schools on Japanese land teaching Koreans to hate Japan and worship Kim as a God, teaching Koreans to hate Japan. How long are we going to allow this garbage to continue???

Waiting on another attack, another crisis caused by Korean influence and brainwashing???

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

Waiting on another attack, another crisis caused by Korean influence and brainwashing???

Japan was technically under the rule of Korean fascists after 1945 because the US loved to divide and rule strategy. They put the Koreans to rule over the Japanese but the US is actually the boss.

Unification Church to Soka Gakkai all have their fascist leaders of Korean heritage.

-9 ( +0 / -9 )

ReasonandWisdomNipponNov. 22  10:57 pm JST

Dear LDP,

South Korean Unification Church...

No one in the LDP is going to read anything like this or pay it any attention. They don't care about you or anything you write.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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