TOKYO -- The man accused of murdering former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed his grudge against the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, which has been called out since the 1980s for its involvement in "fortune telling fraud" that rely on fear to scam people into buying expensive vases and other items.
The religious group, more commonly known as the Unification Church, held mass wedding ceremonies between followers matched by its founder Moon Sun Myung (1920-2012). It became a social problem in Japan after a famous singer and others took part in the weddings.
It is said that the group is closely related to Japan's political world, and questions has been raised about the group's connection with Abe's grandfather and late prime minister Nobusuke Kishi.
Tomihiro Tanaka, president of the Japanese branch of the group explained during a July 11 press conference that he considered Kishi to have "had a strong understanding of the founder's peace movement rather than being involved in the organization." He also said Abe "expressed his support for the peace movement."
In a separate interview with the Mainichi Shimbun on July 10, a Unification Church official said, "Although we did not have a close relationship (with Abe), he was a politician we were fond of."
According to the group's website and other sources, the group was founded in May 1954 in Seoul, South Korea, as the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, and has bases in 194 countries. The Japan branch, which was established in 1959, was certified as a religious organization in 1964. The group began to change its name to the current one in 1997, and was renamed in Japan in 2015.
The Agency for Cultural Affairs classifies the group as a Christian organization, and there were 284 of its churches in Japan as of August 2017.
(Japanese original by Takuya Suzuki, Tokyo City News Department)