The church linked to Abe’s killing, Japan’s political turmoil | Politics Information

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Shinzo Abe was not his murderer’s most popular goal.

Investigators say Tetsuya Yamagami, who fatally shot Japan’s longest-serving prime minister on July 8, had initially wished to kill the chief of the Unification Church — a South-Korean spiritual sect that the 41-year-old blames for his household’s monetary destroy. However the COVID-19 pandemic acquired in the way in which.

Hak Ja Han Moon, who has led the church for the reason that 2012 loss of life of its founder — her husband Solar Myung Moon — had stopped coming to Japan following pandemic-related border closures.

In a letter Yamagami despatched to a blogger a day earlier than taking pictures Abe with a hand-crafted gun, he wrote that it was “unattainable” to kill Hak Ja Han Moon. And though Abe was “not my unique enemy”, the 67-year-old politician was “probably the most influential sympathisers” of the Unification Church, he wrote. “I can now not afford to consider the political implications and penalties that Abe’s loss of life will deliver,” he added.

The brazen killing within the metropolis of Nara, as Abe was delivering a marketing campaign speech, shocked Japan, a nation the place political violence and gun crimes are extraordinarily uncommon. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida rapidly declared that he would maintain a state funeral for Abe whereas the Japanese public handed his ruling Liberal Democratic Celebration (LDP) a sweeping victory in an higher home election held simply days after the assassination.

However the grief rapidly gave approach to anger amid rising media scrutiny of the church’s intensive ties with Abe and the LDP, and alleged abuses, together with claims of pressured donations. Kishida has, in the meantime, seen his approval scores plunge from 63 % on the time of Abe’s assassination to about 29 % in mid-September – a degree analysts say makes it troublesome for a main minister to have sufficient assist to hold out his agenda.

“The Unification Church shouldn’t be a lot thought to be a non secular organisation, however moderately as a predatory cult in Japan,” mentioned Koichi Nakano, professor of political science on the Sophia College in Tokyo.

Church or cult?

Formally often known as Household Federation for World Peace and Reunification and disparagingly known as “the Moonies”, Solar Myung Moon based the Unification Church in South Korea in 1954. The self-proclaimed messiah was a staunch anti-Communist who advocated conservative family-oriented beliefs. Famously, he oversaw mass weddings at which he had matched hundreds of {couples}, typically by pairing pictures of people that had by no means met earlier than.

Consultants say the church’s right-wing beliefs helped it broaden abroad in the course of the Chilly Struggle.

Moon turned good pals with Nobusuke Kishi, who served as Japan’s prime minister from 1957 to 1960 and was Abe’s grandfather. It was Kishi who helped discovered the church’s political arm, the Worldwide Federation for Victory Over Communism in Japan in 1968, in accordance with Japanese media. After gaining a foothold in Japan, the church handled its followers there like an “financial military”, a former senior member informed the Reuters information company, elevating cash by amassing donations and promoting “non secular items” reminiscent of costly ginseng tea or miniature stone pagodas.

Within the case of Yamagami, Abe’s killer, relations say his mom, a religious follower, donated some 100 million yen ($692,000) to the church, a big a part of which got here from a life insurance coverage cost from his father’s loss of life by suicide. The donations bankrupted the household and Yamagami, described by his uncle as “extraordinarily sensible” and “hardworking”, needed to abandon plans to go to varsity.

The Unification Church is well-known for its mass weddings, with some {couples} matched just by picture  [File: Kim Hong-Ji/ Reuters]
Moon Sun Myung, the founder of the Unification Church, drinks a toast with his family members during his 91st birthday party
Moon Solar Myung, the founding father of the Unification Church, drinks a toast together with his relations throughout his 91st celebration in 2011 [File: Jo Yong-Hak/ Reuters]

A gaggle of attorneys representing victims of the church’s “non secular gross sales” in Japan mentioned the spiritual group has been linked to some 30,000 complaints involving losses of 123.7 billion yen ($856m) since 1987 and that the church has used the funds raised in Japan to construct and seed a multi-billion greenback enterprise empire spanning the globe.

In response to Britain’s Monetary Occasions, Moon based a conglomerate known as Tongil Group in South Korea in 1963, and its associates now function ski and golf resorts, a defence firm, a chemical substances group, a automotive components enterprise and a newspaper. In america, the church’s enterprise pursuits embrace the conservative Washington Occasions newspaper, the New Yorker Resort in New York, the True World Meals seafood wholesaler and an unlimited property portfolio, it mentioned.

Regardless of the complaints over its fundraising practices in Japan, the church continued to search out favour amongst LDP politicians, with whom it shared conservative values, together with opposition to LGBTQ rights.

Investigators say it was a video message that Abe had despatched final yr to an occasion hosted by a Unification Church-affiliated group, the Common Peace Federation (UPF), and attended by Hak Ja Han Moon that prompted his killer to think about switching his targets. Within the message to the UPF, Abe had praised Hak Ja Han Moon and thanked the group for its “focus and emphasis on household values”.

Japanese media, in the meantime, have alleged that the church, which now has about 100,000 lively followers in Japan, has directed its members to assist elect LDP candidates. A former follower informed the Asahi Shimbun newspaper that she had volunteered in campaigns to assist elect Abe ally Koichi Haguida in an effort to “save” Japan. 5 former followers additionally informed Reuters that church officers had instructed them to vote for LDP candidates who opposed homosexual rights.

“The nexus of right-wing politicians and a right-wing Church that each oppose gender rights, LGBTQ rights and need to flip again the fingers of historical past on social developments involving the household have sparked anger,” mentioned Jeffrey Kingston, professor of historical past and Asian research at Temple College in Japan. “Their conservative dogma doesn’t get pleasure from public assist.”

‘No stunning hyperlinks’

In a bid to handle the rising outcry, Kishida ordered LDP legislators to sever ties with the church and introduced a brand new programme to assist these experiencing bother with the group. This consists of providing authorized assist for individuals who are in search of the return of their donations. The LDP additionally carried out an inner survey that discovered almost half of its 379 nationwide legislators had ties to the church.

It mentioned some 96 of the legislators reported attending occasions organised by the church or its associates whereas 29 mentioned they’d accepted donations from the group. An extra 17 mentioned they’d acquired election assist from church followers who volunteered of their campaigns.

Kingston mentioned an intensive investigation of the allegations of the church’s actions in Japan was mandatory.

“Its intensive and longstanding political position has been stored obscure till the assassination,” he mentioned. “It’s within the public curiosity to completely vet the organisation and its position in politics and whether or not it’s in compliance with rules overlaying spiritual organisations.”

The church has denied supporting any specific political social gathering and mentioned it doesn’t give political steerage to its members. It did say, nevertheless, that its political arm, the UPF, has courted Japanese legislators and most of them have been from the LDP due to shared values.

A spokesman for UPF, Kajikuri Masayoshi, additionally informed NHK he didn’t perceive the furore over ties between the 2 teams. “Our relationship is simply regular. Usually, they despatched congratulatory telegrams or did interviews with our magazines. I believe there have been no authorized or moral issues,” he mentioned in late August.

With Japan getting ready to carry Abe’s funeral on Tuesday, some analysts mentioned they anticipate the outcry to blow over.

Masaki Nakamasa, professor of philosophy at Kanazawa College, mentioned he believed the hyperlinks between the Unification Church and the LDP have been “not so sturdy”.

Attending church conferences in an effort to achieve election volunteers doesn’t make the legislators believers, mentioned Nakamasa, who was additionally previously a member of the church.

“It’s actually arduous to show conservative Japanese politicians into devoted Moonies,” he mentioned, including: “After the memorial service for Abe, the media and the web opinion will lose curiosity, as a result of there are not any actual stunning hyperlinks between Abe and the Unification Church.”

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