August 1, 2022
TOKYO – Following the fatal shooting of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, various ways in which politicians have obtained electoral support from the religious group widely known as the Unification Church have come to light.
Some politicians are investigating their links to the group, which has engaged in activities raising societal concerns, such as B. a “spiritual sales method” to persuade their followers to buy expensive items.
“I received various types of support from individual volunteers during the election campaign,” Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi told a news conference on Friday, explaining his relationship with the group, now officially called the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.
Kishi, Abe’s younger brother, said he had some volunteers associated with the group working for him to call voters and ask for their support during the House of Representatives campaign.
Kishi said he “thinked there wasn’t a problem at the time” but will “check carefully if that was the right thing to do”.
In 1968, Unification Church founder Sun Myung Moon (1920-2012) founded an anti-communist political organization called the International Federation for Victory over Communism. Since that time, the church is said to have developed ties with conservative politicians, mostly from the LDP, including former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, grandfather of Abe and Nobuo Kishi.
There are many LDP MPs among the politicians whose ties to the church have recently come to light.
Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Shinsuke Suematsu said people associated with the group bought tickets for its political fundraisers in 2020 and 2021. The tickets cost a total of 40,000 yen.
In 2016, a political party group headed by Hakubun Shimomura, the former Minister of Education, also received a 60,000 yen donation from an organization affiliated with the group.
Opposition parties are no exception. People’s Democratic Party leader Yuichiro Tamaki received donations totaling 30,000 yen in 2016 from a former president of one of the group’s affiliated organizations. Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party) chairman Ichiro Matsui attended a meeting of an organization affiliated with the group about 20 years ago.
Why did politicians develop relationships with the group? Many in the political world say it is for electoral purposes.
Yoshiyuki Inoue, an LDP member of the House of Councilors, became a “supporting member” of the group just before the start of the official campaign for the July House of Lords election, in which he was re-elected.
It was reported that he became a supporting member because his campaign promises aligned with the group’s policies. One of his secretaries told The Yomiuri Shimbun that Inoue did this to gain election support.
It has also been noted that many politicians have sent congratulations on events related to the group.
“There are many organizations whose true status remains unclear, but if you don’t take action when asked to attend an event, you are making them your enemies in the election. That’s why I used to send congratulations,” a former MP recalled, speaking to The Yomiuri Shimbun.
Local guides have also received support from the group. Toyama Governor Hachiro Nitta admitted that he received support from the group in the 2020 gubernatorial election, in which he was elected for the first time.
“They chose a grassroots approach during the election campaign, and I was grateful for that at the time,” Nitta said.
Meanwhile, the group is also said to have exploited their connections to politicians.
A former supporter of the group said he was repeatedly shown images of Moon shaking hands with politicians.
Since the 1980s, the group has used their spiritual selling method to lure people into buying expensive goods, such as pots and personal seals, by telling them they are cursed by their ancestors to stoke fear. Mass group marriages, in which complete strangers are made into couples, have also become a societal problem.
Even sending a message of congratulations on an event related to the group means “support” for them, and the group could use such gestures by politicians to the public, according to Hokkaido University’s Prof. Yoshihide Sakurai.
“For voters, individual politicians’ self-help groups are important information when it comes to choosing who to vote for, so politicians should clearly state which groups they receive support from,” said the expert on the sociology of religion.