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A person walks past the sign of Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, more commonly known as the Unification Church, at its Tokyo headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, 29 August 2022 (Photo: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon via Reuters Connect).

Author: Aurelia George Mulgan, UNSW Canberra

In Japan, the Unification Church (UC) is a religious corporation known formally as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification and for its unique interpretation of Christian theology and practices widely criticised for being similar to those of a cult.

Its founder and long-time leader, South Korean Sun Myung Moon, certainly fits the archetype of a cult leader. He was narcissistic as a self-professed messiah but also charismatic and convincing in his quest to brainwash members from whom he demanded unquestioning loyalty in order to acquire money and power as head of both a religious and business organisation. Such ‘organisational totalitarianism’ has often been harnessed for political ends, particularly as the children of believers were taught that ‘instructions from above are absolute‘.

In the 1950s and 60s, the basic connection was ideological. The UC was built on anti-communist ideals, particularly the political organisation set up by Moon in 1968 called the ‘International Federation for Victory over Communism’. These ideals underpinned the close connection established between Moon and Abe’s grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, who facilitated the importation of the UC into Japan, as well as its offshoot political organisation.

Kishi facilitated the close historic ties between the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the UC, perpetuated the connection through his son and Abe’s father, Shintaro Abe, and established the faction that Abe inherited. Once in Japan, the UC sought legitimacy and influence through political connections and building networks with national and local politicians. These connections brought legal protection as well as social and financial benefits and policy influence despite UC’s record of financially destroying …continue reading