Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Monday he humbly listens to the “loud voices” of those who criticize his party’s comfortable relationship with the Unification Church, and help victims of the ultra-conservative church business scam.
Kishida has come under fire in a scandal that exposed decades of close ties between former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was assassinated last July, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, and the Unification Church, which is accused of collecting large donations by “brainwashing” its members.
Kishida has divided public opinion out of respect for Abe by holding a state funeral, which opponents see as an attempt to stir up nationalism, without any legal basis or prior parliamentary talks. Abe is seen as a key figure behind the ties between the church and the governing party.
Kishida will need to reclaim public trust to gain support for his government’s key policies, including a national security strategy that includes a preemptive strike capability, which critics say could violate the country’s pacifist constitution.
He also plans to further promote nuclear energy in an effort to reduce carbon emissions and meet the country’s energy supply needs, despite persistent security concerns following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
“I honestly listen to the voice of the people regarding our relationship with the Unification Church,” Kishida said in a speech opening the 69-day parliamentary session.
He pledged to “do his best” to help victims of suspicious church business, and its donation collection practices, by setting up government aid centers that offer legal advice.
He is also considering revising the consumer contract law, but gave no details on whether or how he plans to conduct an investigation into how church-party relations affect government policy.
The suspect in Abe’s killing reportedly told police he targeted the former leader because of his close ties to the Unification Church.
The church, he said, siphoned off large sums of money from his mother, bankrupted his family and ruined his life. Due to its questionable recruitment and business tactics in Japan, the South Korean-headquartered church is considered by many experts to be a cult organization, despite being registered as a religious group. [ab/ka]