Abe Shinzō’s Assasination and the Unification Church in Japan

The former prime minister of Japan, Abe Shinzō, is dead. While campaigning for the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP),1 he was assassinated by Yamagami Tetsuya at Yamato-Saidaiji Station in Nara on July 8, 2022, at 11:30am. His death followed shortly in a hospital after Yamagami used a homemade gun to shoot him from behind.

Philippe Yuan via Unsplash.

According to the media, Yamagami’s motive was not Abe’s political orientation, but his connection to leaders of the Unification Church (UC).2 He held a grudge against the UC because his mother had supposedly gone bankrupt due to donating large sums of money to the organisation.3 Yamagami’s initial idea was to kill UC leader Hak Ja Han (widow of the founder Moon Sun Myung), but he abandoned the plan because he realised he couldn’t reach her. He then switched targets to Abe.4 Abe and his family, particularly his grandfather Kishi Nobosuke, are known to have entertained friendly relations with the UC.5 The assassination of Abe led to a renewed interest and criticism of this connection between religion, specifically the UC, and the government in Japan. 

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  1. The LDP is the leading political party in Japan. []
  2.  “安倍晋三元首相死亡 奈良県で演説中に銃で撃たれる”. NHK (in Japanese). Tokyo, Japan. 8 July 2022. Rich, Motoko; Inoue, Makiko; Hida, Hikari; Ueno, Hisako (8 July 2022). “Shinzo Abe Is Assassinated With a Handmade Gun, Shocking a Nation”. The New York Times. 11 July 2022. Lies, Elaine (12 July 2022). “Japan bids sombre farewell to slain Shinzo Abe, its longest-serving premier”. Reuters. 12 July 2022. []
  3. Yamagami is quoted as follows in the Mainichi shinbun:「母親が団体にのめり込んで破産した。安倍氏が団体を国内で広めたと思い込んで恨んでいた」, which translates to the following: “My mother was absorbed into the group [the Moonies] and went bankrupt. I resented it that Abe spread the group in the country.”  銃撃容疑者「母親が宗教にのめり込み破産」 安倍氏に一方的恨みか. Mainichi shimbun. 9 July 2022. []
  4. 独自「火炎放射器を持って」供述で判明した旧統一教会襲撃計画 安倍元総理を狙った理由. TV asahi. 12 July 2022. []
  5.  For more on this, see e.g., “Japan defense minister had help from Unification Church in elections”. The Japan Times. 26 July 2022. Suzuki, Eito: “旧統一教会のフロント組織「勝共連合」会長が安倍元首相との‘ビデオ出演’交渉の裏話を激白”, Bungeishunjū (https://bunshun.jp/articles/-/56249?page=2, 30 July 2022). []
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