SEOUL – Thousands of Unification Church followers protested in South Korea on Thursday at Japanese media’s negative coverage of their religion, after the suspect in the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe blamed the church for his family’s troubles.
The protesters, mostly Japanese supporters who settled in South Korea after marrying Korean spouses, insisted the Japanese reports were being pushed by anti-Unification Church experts, lawyers and Protestant pastors who “groundlessly” blamed their church for Abe’s death make responsible.
They said such media reports and comments have unsettled Japanese followers of the church, who are already facing social persecution and fears of pressure from family members to renounce their faith.
There have been instances where followers of the Japanese Unification Church have been abducted or imprisoned by relatives who attempted to deprogram them from their religion. One extreme case involved a man named Toru Goto, who was locked up in a Tokyo apartment for more than 12 years until 2008 when family members tried to force him to give up his faith.
Demonstrators at the Seoul rally chanted slogans denouncing the situation in Japan as religious oppression and waved signs written in both Korean and Japanese that read “Stop the Attack on Human Rights” and “Never Forgive.” the business of kidnapping and imprisonment”.
“Right now, all of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification believers in Japan are facing an outdated witch hunt fueled by biased and distorted media reports,” a tearful Yamada Taeko said on a stage, using the church’s official name.
“We call on all media to take immediate leadership to ensure religious freedom is properly protected in my beloved homeland of Japan,” she said.
The Unification Church says about 10,000 Japanese-born followers are currently residing in South Korea after marrying Korean spouses. It had expected Thursday’s protest to draw about 4,000 people.
The Church’s following in Japan and their close ties to the country’s conservative politicians have been the subject of intense media coverage since Abe’s July 8 assassination.
Suspect Tetsuya Yamagami is said to have targeted the former prime minister for his alleged ties to the Unification Church, which the man hated because he believed his mother’s massive donations to the church had ruined his family.
Abe praised her work for peace on the Korean peninsula and her focus on family values in a video message to the church-affiliated Universal Peace Foundation in September 2021. Some experts say Abe’s video appearance may have motivated his attacker.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida reshuffled his cabinet last week to distance his government from the Unification Church over its ties to Abe and senior members of the ruling party. Seven ministers were removed, including Abe’s younger brother, former Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, who admitted that church supporters had volunteered in past election campaigns.
The South Korean church, known for its mass marriages and its late founder who called himself a messiah, forged close ties with many Japanese conservative lawmakers. They include members of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, which has ruled Japan almost continuously since its inception in 1955.
The church was founded in Seoul in 1954 by Rev. Sun Myung Moon, whose staunch anti-communism found strong support from right-wing Japanese politicians, including Abe’s grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, who was also prime minister.
The church’s fundraising was particularly aggressive in Japan, critics say, because Moon taught adherents there that they needed to give more money to atone for the sins of their ancestors who colonized the Korean Peninsula, controlled by Tokyo from 1910 to 1945 .
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https://www.local10.com/news/world/2022/08/18/unification-church-followers-decry-biased-japanese-media/ Unification Church supporters denounce ‘biased’ Japanese media