What is Unification Church? Shinzo Abe Shooter's Mother Made 'Huge Donations' to South Korea-Based 'Moonies' Sect

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The mother of Tetsuya Yamagami, the gunman who shot dead former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is a member of the Unification Church, the church said on Monday. Police identified Yamagami, a 41-year-old unemployed man, as the shooter who approached Abe and started firing at a campaign rally on Friday.

Following his arrest, Yamagami allegedly told police that he held a grudge toward Abe because of what he perceived to be the politician's affiliation with a "religious group" his mother had joined. Yamagami claimed that his mother paid the club exorbitant dues, which destroyed his family financially. The shooting was caught on camera and horrified a country where gun violence is uncommon.

Missing Link Found

Tetsuya Yamagami
Tetsuya Yamagami seen waiting before Abe's arrival to the scene Twitter

It seems the missing link between Yamagami and Abe's death has finally been unearthed. The Unification Church, whose members are colloquially known as Moonies, confirmed on Monday that Yamagami's mother was a member of the "religious group."

According to Kyodo news agency, which cited investigative sources, Yamagami felt Abe had supported a religious group to whom his mother had given a "huge donation."

Yamagami's mother joined the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, also known as the Unification Church, around the late 1990s, according to Reverend Tomihiro Tanaka, who oversees the Japan division of the organization. However, he did not give her name.

He stated that she continued to attend events roughly once a month, with her most recent attendance occurring two months ago. The church claimed that neither Abe nor Yamagami were members. The reverend continued by saying that Abe wasn't the church's advisor either.

Tanaka cited the ongoing police inquiry as the reason she would not comment on her donations.

Shinzo Abe shot
The moment Tetsuya Yamagami fires the second shot which hits Shinzo Abe Twitter

Tanaka said, adding that the church will work with the police on the inquiry if requested. According to the church's website, Abe spoke at a gathering last September, sponsored by a group connected to it and praised the affiliate's efforts to bring about peace on the Korean peninsula.

Unnecessary Grudge

The Unification Church, however, acknowledged its ties to the late prime leader Nobusuke Kishi, who was Abe's grandfather. The church claimed that although its members provided various forms of donations to the religious group, it was ultimately up to the members to choose what or how much they wished to give.

Tetsuya Yamagami being tackled by Abe's security
Tetsuya Yamagami being tackled by Abe's security Twitter

In addition to denying ever forcing members into paying donations, it cited the ongoing police inquiry as a reason for declining to comment on Yamagami's mother's payments.

The church added that it did not wish to become involved in rumors about whatever religious group Yamagami had claimed he had a vendetta against.

Tetsuya Yamagami
Tetsuya Yamagami seen waiting behind Shinzo Abe before shooting at him Twitter

Despite not naming the group, police have confirmed that Yamagami claimed to have a grievance against it. The Kyodo news agency, citing investigative sources, said Yamagami had developed a deep resentment towards Kishi that he directed towards Abe.

Yamagami, who first intended to target an executive of the religious group, has denied that the shooting was motivated by politics, saying police that he made the decision to try to take the life of the former leader of the Liberal Democratic Party.

Shinzo Abe
Shinzo Abe lying unconscious on the road after being shot in the chest as paramedics try to revive him Twitter

The Unification Church, which has a reputation for holding extremely conservative views, was founded in South Korea but has since attracted a sizable following there and developed ties with world leaders in politics, including former President Donald Trump.

The group quickly gained a reputation for being strongly anti-communist. Mass wedding ceremonies there have also made headlines.

Kishi, a prominent member of the LDP who presided as prime minister from 1957 to 1960 and passed away in 1987, is rumored to have played a role in the establishment of a political party with ties to the religious group. The organization's Tokyo headquarters was allegedly constructed on property that once belonged to Abe's grandfather, according to Richard Samuels, a professor of Japanese studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of "Machiavelli's Children: Leaders and Their Legacies in Italy and Japan."

Shinzo Abe shooter
The moment Shinzo Abe's suspected shooter is captured and arrested Twitter

It is unclear whether Abe's grandfather ever sent an invitation for the group to visit Japan, despite reports of a tie between the organization and the LDP.

Tanaka, however, refuted this and said that the group developed naturally. "I think it is unlikely that Prime Minister Kishi made any special arrangement or had any special influence on that movement," he said.

Hirokazu Matsuno, the chief cabinet secretary and the government's top spokesperson, said on Monday that the National Police Agency, which is in charge of overseeing all local police units, and other security measures in place for Abe have been found to have shortcomings. The National Public Safety Commission will examine the situation.

Tetsuya Yamagami
This is believed to be Tetsuya Yamagami in his younger days Twitter

Matsuno's comments echoed those of the Nara Prefectural Police head, who said late Saturday that it was "undeniable" that there had been "problems" with Abe's security.

According to Kyodo, which cited investigation sources, Yamagami made the gun that killed the former prime minister as part of his plans to kill Abe. He reportedly tested the weapon at a location connected to a religious group.