Aug 31, 2022 - World

Japan's prime minister apologizes for party's links to controversial church

Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida

Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks during a news conference on Aug. 31. Photo: Shuji Kajiyama/Pool/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida formally apologized on Wednesday for his party's ties to the controversial Unification Church, which have come to light in the wake of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's assassination last month.

The big picture: Abe's suspected assassin, Tetsuya Yamagami, reportedly blamed the South Korea-founded Unification Church for bankrupting his mother and resented what he saw as Abe's promotion of the organization, according to Reuters.

  • In a letter sent before the shooting, Yamagami described Abe as "nothing more than one of the Unification Church's most powerful sympathizers," the New York Times reported.
  • The assassination thrust the church into the spotlight, with revelations emerging of ties between Abe and Kishida's Liberal Democratic Party. Kishida and his cabinet's approval ratings have subsequently plummeted over the last month, the Guardian reported.
  • Earlier this month, Kishida reshuffled his cabinet to purge it of members linked to the church, Reuters reported.
  • He also denied that the group — known for its conservative views, including opposition to same-sex marriage, and mass weddings — had influenced policy, per the Guardian.

What they're saying: "Politicians are strictly required to be careful about groups with social problems," Kishida said, AP reported.

  • Kishida added that it would be a matter of "party policy" for the LDP to sever ties to the church and ensure compliance, per Reuters.
  • "There are still many people who are concerned and suspicious of strong ties...due to a number of media reports on the matter," he added.
  • "For this, I offer my sincere apologies as the president of the LDP."
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