Moonies Embedded in Japanese Political Life, Yuta Yagishita (Le Monde Diplomatic)

Dynasty: Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi (second from left) and his family including his grandson Shinzo Abe (first from left) on vacation in Hakone, July 7, 1957

Asahi Shimbun/Getty

n On July 8, 2022, former Japanese Prime Minister and Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leader Shinzo Abe was shot at an election rally. Abe’s killer, Tetsuya Yamagami, told investigators his family was ruined after his mother made huge donations to a religious group she believed had ties to Abe. Although the media initially did not release its name, this is the Unification Church (UC), or “Moonies,” which has almost continuously pressured its members into large donations within the government since 1955, and has been involved in alliances with the Liberal Democratic Party. known for their close relationship.

Officially named Family Federation for World Peace, the Unification Church was inspired by Christianity and founded in South Korea in 1954 by Sun Myung Moon (1920-2012). President Moon claimed that he was the second Messiah sent to complete the work of Christ, but the Unification Church’s ideology also included anti-communism, ancestor worship, and Korean nationalism. there is Yoshihide Sakurai, professor of sociology at Hokkaido University, explains: “His generation harbored a deep-seated hatred of Japan. Japan served as a rear base for US forces in the Korean War and benefited economically, while South Korea remained divided.” in ruins. Moon argued that South Korea, which colonized and enslaved his country in the early 20th century, was the “chosen state” and Japan was the “devil state.”

Still, Mr. Moon tried to expand his network in Japan from 1959, studying engineering at Waseda University. With the Cold War underway, the Unification Church enjoyed the support of some of the strongly anti-communist LDP leaders. When he founded the International Communist Victory League (IFVOC) in 1968, the new organization’s honorary president was Sasakawa, a right-wing businessman (war crime suspect) and friend of Abe’s former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi (1957-60). It was Mr. Ryoichi. old man.

Kishi was one of the architects of the Japan-U.S. military alliance and was known for his strong distaste for communism. He attended a meeting of the World Anti-Communist League (now the World League for Freedom and Democracy) in Tokyo in 1970, and at President Moon’s 1974 Japan conference held under the auspices of the IFVOC, the Organizing Committee served as honorary chairman of the Osami Kuboki, a former leader of the Unification Church in Japan, wrote in his memoirs that “his relationship with Mr. Kishi was a major driving force in the movement for victory over communism.”

The connection between the Moonies and the Kishi-Abe family continues to this day. In a television interview last December, former Unification Church leader Masatoshi Abe (no relation) said the late prime minister was still in political wilderness in 2012 after the first government was defeated in 2007. “We gathered 300 young people,” he recalled. [Moonies] To show that we support him…it encouraged him to take a stand. [September 2012] Liberal Democratic Party presidential election” (TBS News, December 2022, 12).

Abe praises Moonies family

In recent years, Abe has made no effort to hide his relationship with the Mooneys, as evidenced by a 2022 video message he sent to the Unification Church-affiliated Universal Peace League, in an effort to unify Korea. was praising (1).

Encouraged by its connections with the Kishi-Abe family, the Unification Church continued to expand its network within the LDP. An internal investigation in September 2022 found that at least 179 of the 379 members of parliament had ties to the Unification Church, and 17 had received help from Unification Church volunteers during their election campaigns. Among them were former Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi and Yoshiyuki Inoue, a former aide to Abe who admitted to being a member of the Unification Church. (2).

The Unification Church leadership will change its form and name to ensure its existence in Japan

Shimazono Susumu

The Unification Church’s network extends to other political parties, with 14 lawmakers from the center-left Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and 13 lawmakers from the center-right Japan Restoration Party admitting contact with the Unification Church. Nothing more.

The University of California’s influence over the LDP may be a matter of votes. According to independent journalist Hideto Suzuki, “Since the number of members of the Unification Church is about 100,000, we can mobilize about 120,000 votes including friends and family members.” This isn’t enough to elect an MP in a given constituency, but it can make a difference for proportional representation candidates. But the main benefit of UC’s support is the availability of volunteers to help with the campaign. “Candidates need a huge number of people to put up posters and make phone calls.” Moonies can mobilize members for free, which is invaluable. ”

A Liberal Democratic Party prefectural assemblyman in the Kanto region (east-central part of Japan) claims that a member of the Unification Kyokai worked for the Liberal Democratic Party government minister: “For ten years, he attended his seminars and political rallies, and the number of young people who supported him.” I was skeptical about the unusual numbers.” ” One day, a secretary confirmed that the minister was indeed Mooney.

“Spiritual Sales”

At a press conference in August 2022, Tomihiro Tanaka, head of Japan’s Unification Church, acknowledged that the LDP “has worked with politicians who have a clear stance against communism to build a better country.” also denied that he supported the LDP. (NHK, August 10, 2022).

The Unification Church is known in Japan for pressuring its members to purchase religious items at exorbitant prices, forcing them to make large donations and practices known as “spiritual marketing.” The National Network of Attorneys Against Spiritual Selling (Japan) estimates the economic damage from 1987 to 2021 at ¥123 billion ($890 million in today’s terms). (3).

“But that’s probably the tip of the iceberg,” said Hiroshi Yamaguchi, executive director of the network, explaining how the system works. Problem – for example, serious illness.

“Then they are told that they must donate to save their ancestors. Because of their power, few people dare to sue the authorities. And, “If you’re in pain, say, if you’ve lost a loved one in an accident, stories about ancestors in hell may sound very credible,” he added.

According to Sakurai, the cult’s ideology can explain the massive extortion. Unification Church leaders say, “We are preaching to Japanese members that monetary donations are essential to atone for the sins of their ancestors, namely, the colonization of Korea.” The Japanese are particularly susceptible to spiritual sales due to the prevalence of ancestor worship.

The Unification Church has been tried and convicted about 20 times over selling spirits, but many involved, including Suzuki and Yamaguchi, said their ties to the LDP shielded them from police investigations. I believe. According to Suzuki, “an investigation from 2007 to 2010 nearly led to a raid on the UC’s Japanese headquarters.”But Shizuka Kamei [a former senior official at the National Police Agency and LDP Diet member at the time] intervened. 』

The political impact of Abe’s death

The Unification Church continued to operate peacefully until Prime Minister Abe was shot in July last year. The mother of the shooter (Yamagami) joined the church in 1991. She raised three children alone because her husband committed suicide seven years before her, and her eldest son had cancer. Under her pressure, she donated over 100 million yen ($730,000 in today’s terms). This eventually led to the sale of her family home and bankruptcy. Her children grew up in extreme poverty, and her eldest son took his own life in 2015.

In a letter he sent to journalists before the shooting, Mr. Yamagami said, “The experience of that period is still ruining my life.” He acknowledged that Abe was just “one of the Unification Church’s most influential sympathizers,” but said he was no longer “capable of thinking about the political implications and consequences of the Unification Church.” . [his] death’ (Four).

The story on the mount is a familiar story to the children of UC members. A 26-year-old woman who asked to remain anonymous said her parents had joined the church 40 years ago. Her father became a priest and her mother was an active participant in church activities and also sold religious items. It’s hard to know the total amount of her donation, but she remembers the house was full of knick-knacks and books, and she believes she had at least 10 million yen ($73,000). She said, “We weren’t rich. My parents borrowed money from my family to collect donations, and even my New Year’s gift was confiscated. [money]. ”

In elementary school, I was bullied because of my shabby clothes. The money she saved from her part-time job in high school also went into the Unification Church’s vault. She was hospitalized several times for depression. At the age of 20 she left her home and the Unification Church, but after that she faced an existential crisis. She said, “Her parents only allowed me to increase the number of church members.” Feeling that her life had no meaning anymore, she hated herself. She considered suicide many times, but never had the courage to carry it out. ”

Until now, according to Suzuki, the plight of these children had been virtually unknown to the general public, as some had taken their own lives “due to self-censorship by the media.” . “They dared not name the Mooneys for fear of being called to the police or taken to court. Their silence led to Abe’s assassination.” Japanese authorities are reluctant to intervene in cases of child abandonment related to religion.

When the Liberal Democratic Party’s relationship with the Mooney faction came to light, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s popularity plummeted, and he was forced to sack two cabinet ministers. Last October, the Diet finally passed a law banning the “malicious solicitation” of donations, and under pressure from friends and family members of Unification Church members, the Agency for Cultural Affairs, which regulates Japanese religious groups, announced that the cult would ordered an investigation that could lead to the misconduct of dissolution.

Susumu Shimazono, Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at the University of Tokyo, is concerned that this will not solve anything, and has recommended a comprehensive review of the relationship between religion and politics. He said that “no religious group with a history of more than 50 years has ever been dissolved” in Japan. The Unification Church leadership will try to ensure its survival by changing its form and name. We should think about what will happen next. The reaction from the LDP is not encouraging. The party has promised to “sever all ties” with the Mooneys, but Kishida has refused to disclose his relationship with Abe out of respect for the dead.

The same is true of other LDP politicians accused of having ties to the Unification Church (including Mr. Hiroyuki Hosoda, a close friend of Prime Minister Abe and current Speaker of the House of Representatives). did not speak either. Moonies Embedded in Japanese Political Life, Yuta Yagishita (Le Monde Diplomatic)

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