In Korea, the “Home of the Unification Church,” the former Unification Church is no longer under the radar
The assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe brought to light the connection between politics and the former Unification Church (Family Federation for World Peace and Unification). However, even in the second Kishida cabinet, seven ministers have already been found to have had ties to the former Unification Church.
In fact, it is said that in South Korea, the “home” of the former Unification Church, the church is no longer in the spotlight. We asked Harada Mihane, a freelance writer living in Seoul, about the former Unification Church and new religions in South Korea.
In South Korea, there is concern that the assassination of former Prime Minister Abe will make him a hero.
In addition, despite the apparent connection between the LDP and the former Unification Church and the many videos that serve as evidence, in Japan, it is only a topic of conversation mainly on twitter, and since there have been no mass protests or riots demanding explanations from the LDP, people say, ‘Japanese people are very quiet. (*A demonstration of about 1,200 people was held around Shinjuku Station in Tokyo on August 16, demanding the cancellation of former Prime Minister Abe’s state funeral).
In South Korea, when the connection between Park Geun-hye and Sherman was discovered, she was strongly impeached and dragged down. I think that Mr. Abe is a former prime minister, not a current one, and that he was assassinated, but if the same connection between politics and religion were discovered in Korea, I think there would be a great uproar.”
Incidentally, the attention and reputation of the former Unification Church in Korea can be found at …….
In Korea, it is called “Unificationism,” and I think most people are aware that they should not approach it with an open mind. Rather, I think that other new religions, such as the “New Heaven and Earth Jesus Church,” which became a hot topic due to the mass infection of corona, are more vigorous now. Setsuri,’ which separated from the former Unification Church where Myung-Seok Chung, believed to be the founder of the church, was imprisoned for sexual harm to female believers by building a harem, also seems to have changed its name often and continues its recruiting activities.”
In South Korea, many people go to church, with Christianity being the most major, at about 30% of the total, and Buddhism at about 15%, and there are also many other indigenous faiths, such as those that go to a shaman called Mudang, as if it were fortune-telling.
Most of those active in the former Unification Church in Korea are Japanese!
On the other hand, as for those who are currently active in the former Unification Church in Korea, it is said that they are mainly Japanese women who came to Korea through a joint wedding ceremony, and that they moved their target to Japan long ago and are increasing their followers. It is also said that there are an estimated less than 20,000 devoted followers.
It is said that “because of the joint wedding ceremonies, or in areas where there is a shortage of wives, such as farming villages, they once tried to gather followers by saying things like, ‘If you become a believer, you will get a wife from Japan. In Korea, the church was also known as the “church of the dead. Also, although there are many people who attend church in Korea, it is not necessarily true that they have a particularly strong religious belief, and many go just for networking. Since many wealthy people go to church, they make connections at church events, and I feel that religion is more deeply rooted in people’s lives than in Japan.
One of the reasons why the old Unification Church has not spread as widely in Korea as it has in Japan is that there are many followers of legitimate Christianity.
Because many new religious groups such as the “New Heaven and Earth” infiltrate Christian churches and engage in missionary activities, or are confusing, major Korean denominations of legitimate “Christianity,” including the Presbyterian Church of Jesus in Korea, have issued a warning to the general public, naming dangerous new religious groups.
A list of resolutions related to heresy regulations published in the specialized journal “Modern Religion” shows that for the former Unification Church, the list begins with “Cult religion/extremely different from traditional theological thought” in 1971, followed by “Unrecognized group/prohibited from joining, prohibited from posting in related newspapers and magazines “Severe punishment/failure to harmonize the cult and church mission, causing severe warning” and ” Since the 1970s, there have been repeated warning messages, such as “Non-Christian: Cult group disguised as Christianity,” “boycott: Investigate products related to the Moon Myung Moon group and launch a boycott campaign,” and “investigation and punishment: Thoroughly investigate, find, and deal with people related to the Unification Church.
Growing Power in Business and Education
Harada points out that the former Unification Church continues to expand its influence in the business sector, even though it is on the wane among new religions.
In South Korea, the former Unification Church has become an organization and is widely expanding its business, including construction companies and stone companies. They are also actively engaged in school management. Perhaps because of their ample budget, the schools are well equipped, have high deviation scores, and are active in accepting foreign students.
It’s not that they are necessarily putting in believers, but the school itself is branded as a place where students can learn at a high level in a good environment. They also run an art high school, and there are cute and cool kids who become the talk of the town on SNS even before their debut. There are rumors that there are a lot of cute and cool kids who are talked about on social media even before their debut. “
Emerging religion issue portrayed as a theme in Korean dramas
Incidentally, Mr. Harada recommends the Korean drama “Kimi wo Mamoruitai ~Save Me~” as a work that very realistically depicts the situation of emerging religions in Korea. This is the last starring role for Asia’s top idol “2PM” Taekyung before he enlists for military service.
The story is about a group of country boys who struggle to save their first love from a girl who has been tricked by a fraudulent new religion, and how the people in the new religion manipulate people’s minds. It is a graphic depiction of how a new religion manipulates people’s minds.
The original story is a manga, but in the countryside in particular, indigenous ties are strong and neighborhoods are troublesome, so when someone with power, such as the town council president, says something, for example, you can’t say no and are taken in.”
In Japan, after the name change in 2015 (the completion of the name change in publications and official documents was in 2016), there was a sharp decline in the coverage of the former Unification Church. Now, the assassination of former Prime Minister Abe has brought it back into the spotlight, while the second Kishida cabinet has brought in a large number of those with ties to the former Unification Church into its cabinet.
Despite being founded in South Korea, the Unification Church has continued to expand, shifting its target to Japan as it has gone downhill in South Korea. Perhaps a clue to the realism of how people are taken in can be found in Korean movies and dramas.
Harada Mihane is a freelance writer who has lived in Seoul for 13 years. She writes about Korean culture and tourism information.
Interview and text by： Wakako Tako