FILE PHOTO: A person walks past the sign of Family Federation for World Peace and Unification in Tokyo
A person walks past the Tokyo headquarters of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, more commonly known as the Unification Church. Photo: Reuters/KIM KYUNG-HOON/File
politics

What is the Unification Church, and how will Japan's probe affect it?

35 Comments

Japan has launched a probe of the Unification Church, potentially threatening the group's position in a country it relies on heavily for followers and financial support, after its links to ruling party lawmakers stirred a public uproar.

What is the Unification Church, and what's in store for it in Japan?

WHAT IS IT?

Formally called the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, the organization better known as the Unification Church was founded in South Korea in 1954 by Sun Myung Moon, an anti-communist and self-declared messiah.

Japan was one of the first destinations in its international expansion and it remains the fourth-largest congregation with some 600,000 adherents out of the church's 10 million globally. The church says Japan is its largest source of income, although a spokesman said only about 100,000 members are active while many second-generation members have drifted away.

WHY IS THE JAPANESE PUBLIC SO ANGRY?

Many Japanese see the church as a cult, with its mass weddings and solicitation of donations, although the church says it no longer engages in what it acknowledged were excessive practices in the past, including aggressive door-to-door sales.

The suspect in former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's murder in July said the church persuaded his mother to part with around 100 million yen, according to his social media posts and news reports. A lawyers' group in Japan said the church had collected nearly $1 billion from followers since 1987, and generated some 35,000 compensation claims.

The suspect blamed the church for his family's financial ruin, and blamed Abe for promoting the church. Abe's assassination revealed to the public the ties the church had formed with politicians, as it aimed to bolster its reputation and attract followers.

The LDP has denied any organizational relations with the church, and has since made it a policy to prohibit its members from retaining ties to the church. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida purged ministers with ties to the church from his cabinet in August, while another minister who subsequently disclosed ties resigned in late October.

HOW IS THE CHURCH RESPONDING?

The Unification Church has held several news conferences to explain its position.

In early October, the church said it would adopt reforms including recording any donation exceeding 30% of a follower's monthly income, as well as whether the follower had the consent of family members.

On Oct 20, senior church official Hideyuki Teshigawara told a briefing that the group would "deal sincerely" with any government investigation, and showed a seven-minute video of a church member refuting her ex-husband's claims that the church was responsible for the family's ruin.

WHAT COULD HAPPEN TO THE CHURCH?

Depending on the findings of the probe, the church could lose its legal status as a religious organization, and its tax benefits. The government would first make a request to the courts, while a final determination would likely take months and could be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court.

Shiori Kanno, a lawyer on the Consumer Affairs Agency panel looking into the church's sales practices, said being stripped of its status as a religious organization would not limit the church from continuing its activities or its members from meeting.

The doomsday cult group Aum Shinrikyo, which carried out the deadly Tokyo subway sarin attack in 1995, was the first religious group in Japan that was forced to disband. Many former members formed another group that remains active today.

© Thomson Reuters 2022.

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

35 Comments
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What is the Unification Church, and how will Japan's probe affect it?

A nasty brainwashing, life-sucking cult that will emerge relatively unscathed, possibly rebranded.

13 ( +15 / -2 )

That church only one that come to spotlight but still many others like it. They have ties with politician in many ways.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2022/08/02/national/japan-politics-religion-ties/

6 ( +12 / -6 )

Yep, a brainwashing, money sucking cult that became enmeshed in Japanese politics.

And do we expect the truth to appear after a ‘probe’ ?

Not really.

1 ( +13 / -12 )

Sell all their assets to compensate the victims

18 ( +18 / -0 )

It is no different than many other cult like "so-called church" organizations. in American you have the likes of Scientology with Tom Cruise right at the top of it and they are now being investigated. These tax-exempt organizations should be annually audited and that funds they are raising are actually being used for the better of mankind and not be hoarded away for personal use which many times is the case.

12 ( +14 / -2 )

Unification Church is a cancer allowed to spread in Japan and around the world under the pretext of religious group, organization.

They will ask for large donations often! Give back a small charm or item, telling their victim is sacred and priceless!

South Korean Unification Church biggest targets was old people, windows left with money from husbands death, mothers with small children! Giving all the resources they have left, to this Cancer on Earth.

With Japan it took a double nasty turn!! By telling Japanese victims, you're guilty for being Japanese!, you have crimes and blood on your hands and soul! Extracting everything from their Japanese victims!!

Disgusting to no end! Thousands of Japanese victims! With no apology or compensation in site from any Korean!!

South Koreans back home are waiting for their 4th payment installment to begin, and their 58th apology given, While Korean hands are all over the Unification Church Disaster! And Assassination!

13 ( +15 / -2 )

They will ask for large donations often! Give back a small charm or item, telling their victim is sacred and priceless!

No different to Japanese Buddhism.

-10 ( +3 / -13 )

Commonly know as the Moonies ( reference to the founders name: Sun Myung Moon), it's been around for decades nationallyinterand is one of many cults that attract members with false promises and ask for and receive donations large and small from members.

I doubt there is anything in the Unification Church's By-Laws that will indicate they are "selling" their promises. A look at their actual practices may show otherwise.

If Japan could could actually remove it's status as a religious organization that will be an international first.

Whatever your opinion of Abe is or was it took that murder to bring this to light although it has been a long standing issue of taking advantage of vulnerable people.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

oops: it's been around for decades nationallyinterand should be "for decades internationally and is...

While I doubt they will reform like Aum Shinrikyo they will still have an international presence.

An article in JT helps but national and local Japanese newspapers need to inform the public as well.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

""In early October, the church said it would adopt reforms including recording any donation exceeding 30% of a follower's monthly income, as well as whether the follower had the consent of family members.""

Okay Lets se here,

Cult membership collectors speaking to new member :

Hi, thank you for coming to Our ""Church"" we are looking forward to bringing you and your family closer to Heaven and the nearest Psychiatric.

So what is your annual income madam?

Member: oh "siemasen" I really don't know for sure, sorry.

Collector : Okay, no problem what is your accountant number, or better yet just bring your last Tax Returns.

Member : okay I understand, next week I will.

Collector : thank you for bringing them, I see that you and your husband made about 6,000,000 JPY!

Member : may be, I am not so sure my husband handles these matters most of the times.

Collector : I understand, so based on this income your monthly membership fees are about 150,000JPY, Please fill out this form for automatic deduction from your bank account and stamp it at the square at the lower right hand corner

Member ; Hai, "siemasen", "Wakarimashta".

Collector : Do your kids live with you, or share their income, or financially assist you and your husband?

Member : Yes I have a son who is living with us,

Collector : Oh, please bring his tax returns as well.

Member ; Hai, "siemasen".

This is what nearly happens anytime you join a Cult,

Sorry for the long post.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

No different to Japanese Buddhism.

But at least they dont ask you to join their cult and dont force you to keep donating after the first time!

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Collector : Okay, no problem what is your accountant number, or better yet just bring your last Tax Returns.

Never asked nor said by anyone here in Japan. The average Japanese company worker doesnt file their own tax returns, their company does it for them.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

in American you have the likes of Scientology with Tom Cruise

You went too far away. The Scientology building is located between Shin Okubo and Shinjuku stations.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

solution simple.

freeze all moonies assets,bank accounts,property-everything.

lock in jail leaders first-investigate later.

outlaw this cult and life threatening one and danger for society.

use their money to pay back to these in need-or just use them for some social programs for poor people.

dont talk more-act now!

4 ( +5 / -1 )

They are the shadow rulers of Japan, ironically.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

The signs read: "Heavenly Parents Holy Community" and "Family Federation for World Peace and Unification". Why did they have to change the name so from "The Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity" thitherto commonly known as the "Unification Church"? To dazzle the eye of society at large?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

If they lose their tax free status, that won't impeded their functioning as a social group. In fact, it may legitimize further political donations (once the noise has died down).

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I am also victam of this church. And I can’t explain how cheap way they us to take money

3 ( +3 / -0 )

What is the Unification Church, how will Japan's probe affect it?

To many Japanese, the Church is a cult imported from & subsidized by another country.

Abe had fallen due to its secretive activities, so would Kishida if his cabinet ministers continue to be involved privately..

4 ( +4 / -0 )

South Koreans back home are waiting for their 4th payment installment to begin, and their 58th apology given, While Korean hands are all over the Unification Church Disaster! And Assassination!

Interesting ‘logic’ that you use here to fuel your anti-Korean sentiment, i.e. “Koreans assassinated Abe!”

You neglect to see how long politicians from the mainstay ruling political party of Japan have been heavily invested in and profiting from such a dubious pseudo-religious organization.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

All religions are/were initially formed to control people, and are some of the wealthiest corporations in the world today. If the true facts were to be revealed about them it would be frightening. They prey on peoples fear and of course extract as much money as they can using that fear. And just how many of these 'cults' exploit and abuse young people, the true answer to that will never be known? I once belonged to a Japanese Buddhist group which is a worldwide organisation, I left it because I became aware of just how selfish so many of its members were/are, and I never contributed a single penny to them. I believe in the tenets of Buddhism, like doing good, thinking good, and being unselfish towards others, but one does not have to belong to any religion to do those things. All I can add here is that for all those who believe in an imaginary mythical being floating around in the sky some where is that they are going to be very disappointed.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

This cult is implicated in the alleged murder of a former Prime Minister.

Subsequent media revelations/reports have indicated a political agenda, surreptitiously worming their way into the ruling democratic party/government on every level.

How can the electorate be confident in the knowledge that their MP is not under the influence of this cult?

So, it follows that this so-called probe impendence has to be unimpeachable, its latitude must delve into every nook and cranny, leave no stone unturned.

This probe must be public, be given the judicial authority to question politicians, witnesses etc under oath.  

The recommendation be written into law.

These cancerous cults are difficult, if not impossible to expunge from society.

So it will be a uphill struggle

2 ( +2 / -0 )

It's funny the Japanese Mass Media doesn't say anything about Sokka Gakkai and Komeito.

Oh wait..

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Udondashi

It's funny the Japanese Mass Media doesn't say anything about Sokka Gakkai and Komeito.

> Oh wait..

The Soka Gakkai is not a political group, it is a religious one. The Komeito is a political group and, not a religious one. Both have been separate groups legally for many decades.

The Komeito receives no funds from the Soka Gakkai. The members of the Soka Gakkai are not required to give donations. The Komeito limits donations from private people. The Komeito publishes audited accounts.

The problem is between the UC and the LDP.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

wallaceToday  03:32 pm JST

The Soka Gakkai is not a political group, it is a religious one.

I do not agree.

It is no secret the Sokka gakkai leaders "recommend" their members vote for Komeito and Komeito-backed politicians.

The Komeito is a political group and, not a religious one. Both have been separate groups legally for many decades.

Separated by law but very, very, very close in real life. Not to mention the Komeito is almost an arm of the CCP within the Japanese Nacional Diet.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

But at least they dont ask you to join their cult and dont force you to keep donating after the first time!

Don't they? Really? Soka Gakkai

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Udondashi

wallace

The Soka Gakkai is not a political group, it is a religious one.

> I do not agree.

Because you disagree does not mean you are correct. It has been public knowledge for many decades, the original Komeito was formed by the Soka Gakkai in 1964. 58 years ago. In 1970, the Komeito and Soka Gakkai became two separate organisations. Since 2012, Komeito has been a junior member of the LDP government.

The majority of Komeito voters are also members of the Soka Gakkai. But not 100% of Soka Gakkai members vote, or vote for Komeito. There are also nonmembers who support Komeito.

All the politicians of the Komeito are also members of the Soka Gakkai.

The Komeito have strict rules about donations and none come from the Soka Gakkai.

You can read for yourself. https://www.komei.or.jp/en/faq/

It is no secret the Sokka Gakkai leaders "recommend" their members vote for Komeito and Komeito-backed politicians.

Yes and why not? But they are not forced to vote.

In the 2021 election, the Komeito received about 7 million votes making it the 4th largest party. The membership of the Soka Gakkai is about 12 million. So about 5 million did not vote or voted for another party.

The Soka Gakkai does not donate to the LDP.

Separated by law but very, very, very close in real life. Not to mention the Komeito is almost an arm of the CCP within the Japanese Nacional Diet.

A strange comment, that Komeito is almost an arm of the CCP?

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James

   But at least they dont ask you to join their cult and dont force you to keep donating after the first time!

> Don't they? Really? Soka Gakkai

Yes, that is correct. Most members make an annual donation every November. We usually donate ¥5,000. No one has ever asked for a donation from us.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Destruction of pacifism constitution or expansion of armament or anti-LGBT policy are also demands from Unification Church and its related groups to LDP government.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Article somehow manages to avoid mentioning the pivotal role that Abe's grandfather Kishi Nobusuke played in establishing the UC in Japan... perhaps because that would then lead some people to learn more about Kishi and his war criminal past/release from Sugamo prison by Occupation authorities as he was deemed the best person to lead Japan in a pro-US direction.

Similarly no mention that a US Congressional probe found that the UC was founded with the support of the KCIA, who were beholden to the CIA...

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Yes, that is correct. Most members make an annual donation every November. We usually donate ¥5,000. No one has ever asked for a donation from us.

It's just easier for people to keep their heads in the sand, rather than educate themselves to reality!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

It is no secret the Sokka Gakkai leaders "recommend" their members vote for Komeito and Komeito-backed politicians.

If you think everyone or every group, who ever recommended one person or another for an election, and people actually listened, no one would ever lose an election!

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

There's two things you can't avoid - Taxes and Death.... unless you're a Religious organization it seems.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

But at least they dont ask you to join their cult and dont force you to keep donating after the first time!

If this is the guideline to investigating, then the government should be investigating Christian church cults that demand that their members tithe 10% of their pay to be accepted as members of the cult.

They just use a different word to justify it.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Plain and simple, the Unification “church” is a money making racket for international right-wing organizations.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Why not a probe to all organized religions in the country? I know personally about things that would be considered extortion if the person doing it was not a Buddhist monk.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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