Shinzo Abe’s assassination spotlights Unification Church links to Japan’s politics

by | Jul 28, 2022 | Top Stories

Enlarge this image

A woman prays after offering a bouquet of flowers at the memorial area set up for former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Hiro Komae/AP

hide caption

toggle caption

Hiro Komae/AP

TOKYO — Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was an improbable target, and his assassination on July 8 was a bizarre and shocking twist of fate for the nation’s longest-serving prime minister and a well known global diplomat. The assassination has focused public attention on the religious movement that was apparently the target of the alleged assassin’s hatred — and its decades-old ties to Japan’s leaders and ruling party. The original target was reportedly Hak Ja Han Moon, the head of the Unification Church and widow of its founder, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. The self-proclaimed messiah and “true father” of his followers, Moon founded the Unification Church in South Korea in 1954. Japanese media have reported that the alleged assassin, 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami, told police that he held a longstanding grudge against the church because his mother had donated more than $700,000 to it, bankrupting the family. He allegedly had plans to target members of the church, including the head, but switched his focus to Abe instead after viewing a video message Abe had made at a virtual church-linked event last September.

Abe did not belong to the church. But like other Japanese politicians, he had made appearances at church-related events, including last September’s, where former President Donald Trump also spoke. Renewed scrutiny on the church’s role in Japan The church immediately distanced itself from the assassination. Tomihiro Tanaka, president of its Japan branch, officially known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, told a press conference that Yamagami was not a member of the church, but his mother was. “As for the motive for suspect Yamagami’s crime, and the donation issue reported by the media,” Tanaka said, “we’d like to refrain from discussing it, as the case is under police investigation.” On Wednesday, Yamagami’s mother told investigators that she felt sorry for having caused trouble for the church. “To her, the Unification Church is everything. It is life itself. She thinks nothing about her son,” another relative was reported as saying.

Enlarge this image

An undated family picture shows Shinzo Abe’s grandfather Nobusuke Kishi and his wife Ryoko with Abe and brother Hironobu Abe (on the lap of his grandfather).

-/AFP via Getty Images

hide caption

toggle caption

-/AFP via Getty Images

The Unification Church has longstanding links to Japanese politics Abe’s ties to the church go back generations, including his father Shintaro Abe, and grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi. At the end of World War II, his grandfather was jailed as a suspected war criminal. In prison, Kishi contacted other right-wing nationalists, including businessman and politician Ryoichi Sasakawa.
When the Rev. Moon created an anti-communist group in South Korea in 1968, he made Sasakawa honorary chairman of its Japan branch — whose headquarters were located on a plot of land next to Kishi’s residence.

Enlarge this image

Couples from around the world participate in a mass wedding ceremony arranged by the Unification Church, at the CheongShim Peace World Center in Gapyeong, South Korea, in 2014.

Ahn Young-joon/AP

hide capt …

Article Attribution | Read More at Article Source

Share This