Kishida denies ties to Unification Church after magazine article

On August 24, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida again denied having any dealings with the Unification Church after a weekly magazine reported that one of its top supporters had done so.

“As I said before, to my knowledge, I myself have no connection with the former Unification Church,” Kishida, who tested positive for COVID-19, told reporters during of an online press conference.

An online article published the day before by the Shukan Bunshun indicated that Mineo Nakayama, president of Sojo University in Kumamoto, headed an organization that promoted a “Japanese-Korean underwater tunnel” project linked to the Church of Japan. Unification.

Nakayama currently chairs the Kishida Support Group in Kumamoto Prefecture.

Kishida said Nakayama was unaware that the organization was involved with the Unification Church, now officially known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.

“I heard that (Nakayama) has already left (the organization),” Kishida said.

The magazine also reported that Kishida contributed an article to a newsletter published by an educational group which is also linked to the church.

Kishida said he submitted the article because the president of the education group was his supporter.

“The president has said that the (educational group) is not related to the former Unification Church,” Kishida said.

Additionally, Shukan Bunshun reported that politicians and others based in Hiroshima Prefecture’s Kishida Ward have ties to the Unification Church.

Kishida said of the report, “I am not in a position to know each of their activities.”

He said the magazine’s reporting on other people in the prefecture “was something I don’t know anything about.”

Lawmakers in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party have distanced themselves from the Unification Church since its fundraising activities came under renewed scrutiny following the shooting death of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in July.

Kishida said he would step up the LDP’s efforts to establish an effective system for reviewing members’ ties to the group.

But he declined to provide details of the increased efforts.

Nakayama held a press conference at the university on August 24 and said he had no idea the tunnel project organization was connected to the church.

He said he took over as chairman of the organization in 2011, when it was established, because a former member of the Kumamoto city assembly asked him to do so.

On August 23, Nakayama tendered his resignation after reading the magazine’s report, he said.

He has been chairman of Kumamoto Kishida-kai, a group that supports the prime minister, since its establishment in 2020.

The group solicited votes for Kishida from local PLD members when he ran and won the party’s presidential election in September 2021.

Kishida received 6,109 votes in Kumamoto Prefecture, the most of any candidate, in the election.

Nakayama said he did not ask people connected to the tunnel project to help Kishida in the presidential race.

“I understand that the old Unification Church had no influence in garnering votes,” Nakayama said.

He also said the magazine’s report gave the impression that Kishida had ties to the church.

“I’m sorry for that,” Nakayama said.

The project to build an undersea tunnel over 200 kilometers long connecting northern Kyushu and southern South Korea was proposed by Sun Myung Moon, the founder of the Unification Church, in 1981.