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Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Monday ordered an investigation into the Unification Church after the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in July revealed close ties between it and ruling party lawmakers.
Support for the Qisida government has fallen to a record low since he took office a year ago. There is growing public discontent that members of his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) do not fully disclose their ties to a church founded in South Korea in the 1950s and known for its mass weddings.
Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was shot dead during a campaign rally and a suspect in the murder claimed his mother went bankrupt because of a church critics call a sect based on dubious fundraising and accused Abe of promoting it.
< br />Kishida instructed the minister of culture to prepare an investigation into the church under the Religious Corporations Act.
“I want to resolve issues related to the church,” — Kishida told parliament.
He apologized for the fact that many LDP members were affiliated with the church, which he said damaged public confidence in the government, adding that he was “serious” to allegations that the church has robbed many followers and their families.
According to Hiroshi Yamaguchi, the lawyer who led the case against the religious organization, the church has made connections with politicians in Japan to attract followers and gain legitimacy.
Politicians, in turn, have received support, he said Church involvement in campaigning.
Kishida said he has no personal relationship with the church, although nearly half of LDP lawmakers have been exposed to such ties since Abe's assassination.
Kishida wants the investigation to begin this year, but refrained from commenting when it was over.
“The government will clarify the situation, offer measures to help the victims, and take measures to prevent a similar situation from happening again,” he said. .
Kishida said the government had received more than 1,700 requests for help due to church-related financial and mental health issues. He promised to expand support for those affected.
A government panel of experts said on Monday that investigators should consider shutting down and dissolving the church.
“We will quickly consider going to court to ask for a dissolution if we find evidence to support it,” — Keiko Nagaoka, Minister of Education and Culture, told Parliament.
The Unification Church was founded in 1954 by Sun Myung Moon, an anti-communist and self-proclaimed messiah.
Critics for years vilified his ministry as dangerous cult and questioned its finances and how it indoctrinates its “Moonie” followers.
The church says it no longer accepts donations that cause financial hardship. The statement says that the church was denounced and slandered and members received death threats after Abe's assassination.
Unification Church founder Moon died in 2012, and the church is now led by his widow Hak Ja Han.
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