Academic journal article Japanese Journal of Religious Studies

Geopolitical Mission Strategy: The Case of the Unification Church in Japan and Korea

Academic journal article Japanese Journal of Religious Studies

Geopolitical Mission Strategy: The Case of the Unification Church in Japan and Korea

Article excerpt

Japan presents a useful case for studying new religious movements and their development of public relations and growth strategies, not only because there are large numbers of new religious movements in Japan, but also for the presence of controversial movements such as Aum and the Unification Church. The strategies employed in recruitment and fund-raising have become increasingly important for such movements in Japan-as well as for research on these movements-in the wake of the "Aum Affair." This article will focus on the strategy employed by the Unification Church, which is broadly perceived as a social problem.

KEYWORDS: cult controversy-new religion-recruitment-Unification Church-fund-raising

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

Ever since Aum Shinrikyo members carried out the sarin gas attack in 1995, the "cult controversy" has been considered a major social problem in Japan. The word "cult," used by Margaret Singer when she referred to Aum as a "doomsday cult" in the Kyodo News Service report of 24 March 1995, fed public anxiety. Aum believers, especially those convicted of the crime of mass murder, were considered by the public to be under the "mind control" of the group's founder, Asahara Shoko. Various professionals have diagnosed pathological religious conversion in cults, which has given authorization for individuals with cult problems to be treated with medical care as well as legal remedies (Nishida 1995).

As for Aum, the acts of violence were dealt with by judiciary authorities as self-centered organized crimes, even though its members were following the orders of the founder under the intense pressure of religious dogma. Moreover, psychiatrists and clinical psychotherapists who participated in cult criticism began withdrawing from their attempts to rescue members when they learned that approximately fifteen hundred members still remained affiliated with Aum (later renamed "Aleph") and still believed in the founder's teachings and practices (Koanchosacho 2008). Contrary to the development process of anti-cult movements formulated by Shupe and Bromley (1994), for the Japanese anti-cult movements the Aum incidents were not sufficient to allow for its "professionalization," that is, the movement must still rely on "nonprofessional" volunteers such as pastors and lawyers. Also, most Japanese did not regard cult members as "patients" to be diagnosed and treated psychiatrically, and easily forgot and overlooked the malfunctions of New Age and cult movements.

Recently, the "cult problem" has been fading from view as a topic in the news. The anti-cult movements, however, have been continuing their regular activities such as reporting on cult issues, counseling, and working to fix problems. Among those problem cases, the Unification Church (Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity; hereafter "uc") in Japan must be noted because this religion has persistently provoked cult controversy, and critics of this religion have succeeded in suggesting a new perspective on the "religious freedom" of the proselytized, that is, the right to not believe in a religion is just as much as part of the "freedom of religion" as the right of a religious group to conduct mission activities.

In Japan, the liability of the uc with regard to former members and private citizens has been the center of many court cases. Its proselytizing has been found to be illegal, and its fund-raising activities (including the sales of spiritual goods) ruled fraudulent. Yet they continue these illegal missionary activities and fund-raising.

Since attention to the cult issue was monopolized by the Aum affair in the 1990s, the uc's missionary and fund-raising work, which has actually been conducted for more than fifty years, did not receive proper attention from the media, police authorities, and academics. The matter of "conversion" has been discussed from the perspective of the sociology of religion, and this organization has been a continuous subject of investigation in connection with this issue. …

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