Unification Church Believers: 300,000 in Korea, 600,000 in Japan
Weekly Kyunghyang, Korean National Major Weekly Magazine, March 1, 2016 issue
translated by PR Department of Tongil Group
Interview with Japanese President of the Family Federation, Eiji Tokuno who Partakes in Birthday Celebration of Reverend Moon
“In Korea, we were accused of heresy, but in Japan, where the Christian community is not so strong, settling in was easier. One other reason was that religious leaders from prestigious universities in the rising generation gathered after coming to realize the teachings of Reverend Moon.”
Also known as the “Unification Church,” the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU) is gaining much interest overseas. Japan itself is a country that has 600,000 believers, more than in Korea, where the Family Federation was founded. As the relations between Korea and Japan, being both close and distant at the same time, the Family Federation, an organization that supports peace movements that transcend national borders, is pouring out its efforts to improve relations between Korea and Japan. The Family Federation considers the time period between the birthday of Reverend Sun Myung Moon and Dr. Hak Ja Han on the 13th of February and Foundation Day on the 20th of February as a time to begin a new year. During this time, Japanese Family Federation President Eiji Tokuno visits Korea to preside over the opening of various events and activities. We then took the time to hear about the peace movements and family movements by the Family Federation from President Tokuno, who advocates for overcoming the boundaries of religious organizations.
We have heard that Japan has over 600,000 believers, and that they are engaging in even more activities than Korea, where 300,000 believers are said to exist. What was the background behind the numbers of believers in Japan exceeding those of the founding country?
“Even though Japan was one of the countries that responded to the Family Federation the most, the time where the official name of the organization changed from the ‘Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity’ to the ‘Family Federation for World Peace and Unification’ was very recent in August, 2015. This was mainly because of the strict policies on the separation of religious organizations and social movements by the Japanese government. But after the change of the title, the peace and family movements calling for the ‘the realization of an ideal family as the foundation of peace’ began to surface, where instead of only emphasizing the salvation of othrs in religious tones, the process of families becoming one was emphasized. In Korea, the Family Federation was accused of so-called ‘heresy,’ and was highly frowned upon; but because of the weaker foundations of Christianity in Japan, it was rather easy to settle there. In addition, when the activities of Reverend Moon began in Japan from 1959, the fact that many younger religious leaders of prestigious universities listened to and accepted the teachings of Reverend Moon was one of the reasons that the current congregation exists today.
There is news that with the commemorative ceremony of Reverend Sun Myung Moon and Dr. Hak Ja Han’s Birthday as the beginning, there are to be various conferences and forums.
“First of all, the most magnificent event that the Family Federation hosts is the Birthday Celebration of Reverend Sun Myung Moon and Dr. Hak Ja Han, which both fall on the same day. 150 active congressmen from Korea, Japan and all over the world participated in the International Leadership Conference event that took place after this celebratory event, and together seek solutions to issues relating to world peace, such as ‘climate change’ and ‘Peace and Stability in Northeast Asia and on the Korean Peninsula.’ In addition, through the Wonmo Pyeongae Foundation, a scholarship presentation ceremony took place where Dr. Hak Ja Han herself presented a total of 10 billion won to 500 people in Korea and 1,500 people from all over the world, and the World Unification Movements General Assembly event was hosted as well.”
How do you introduce the activities of peace movements by the Family Federation to guests from all over the world that are participating in this event?
“The Peace Ideology of Reverend Sun Myung Moon and Dr. Hak Ja Han supports the overcoming of religions, races and national boundaries. About 300 political leaders, nongovernmental activists and scholars from North America, Europe, Africa and various countries that follow or show interest in these ideologies, entered our country to attend the conference. And recently, 30 representative journalists from eight Northeast Asian countries including Indonesia, Malaysia and Nepal, where the teachings of Reverend Moon and Dr. Han are spreading on a national dimension, visited Korea. They not only covered a story about Korea, the mother country of the Family Federation, but also through going on a field trip to the Imjingak Pavilion, we had them experience the reality of division through such international peace activities.”
It is said that the commemoration ceremony of the Birthday of Reverend Moon serves as an opportunity to promote Korean culture in foreign countries like Japan.
“In the ‘Events and Festivals’ held in Korea, 4,000 people from Japan, as well as 1,000 people from all over the world, joined over 30,000 people from Korea in attending the festivities. In Japan, events where families, relatives and local neighbors are invited take place. By opening cultural events such as celebratory services, panel exhibitions and choir performances, as well as preparing and serving various Korean dishes like rice cake soup and adzuki-bean gruel, we were once again able to emulate Korean culture.”
What distinct policy plans has the Family Federation prepared for enhancing Korea-Japan relations?
“Korean and Japan are, in a way, so close; yet they have endured many historical conflicts. From the Japanese Invasion of Korea in 1592 to the more recent Japanese Colonial Era, many wounds were inflicted throughout the history between Korea and Japan, so tensions still remain. With so many methods to improve relations between the two countries, the Family Federation is seeking out measures to activate the exchange between the people on both sides, centered on culture, tourism and trade. Just as how the 2002 World Cup was jointly hosted, another effective measure would be for Japan to first help Korea in the 2018 Pyeong Chang Winter Olympics, and then for Korea to help Japan in the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics two years later. Other than that, as there is nothing stronger than the familial connection in a relationship between people, if international marriages happen between the two countries, then they can contribute toward creating peace in the world. In this process, the most important thing is for Japan, in the position of the oppressor, to empathize with Korea, the position of the victim, and march towards the future together, with a sincerely apologetic attitude.”
We heard that you are going forward with a subterranean tunnel program as one of your approaches to improving relations between the two countries.
“The ‘International Highway Project’ of Reverend Moon is a plan to expand the connection between many countries to enhance cultural exchange around the world; and amongst this, the research activities for the undersea tunnel connection between Korea and Japan has been going on since 1986. For the tunnel construction and pre-investigation, an inclined shaft has been built in Sagahyun Garatz to allow constant activity. Just as how England and France agreed on creating a tunnel that crosses the Strait of Dover and finished its construction in four years, if the governments of Korea and Japan both agree upon building a super high-speed railway, then an era where you can go from Seoul to Tokyo within four hours will arrive.”
The President himself took an interest in Korea and its culture, learned the Korean Language, and conducted his interview in Korea without a translator.
“One of the teachings of Reverend Sun Myung Moon and Dr. Hak Ja Han was that the basics of loving another country was, in fact, to first learn the language and then to understand the culture, art and history of that country. Even as I started to learn the Korean language at the not-so-young age of 47, I studied overseas at the Korean Language Institute of Sun Moon University. Dramas such as ‘Winter Sonata,’ ‘Autumn in my Heart’ and ‘Heo Jun’ helped me a lot in understanding the culture of Korea. At the time, I thought that Korea dearly cared for ‘filial duty’ between parents and children, ‘love’ between husband and wife and ‘loyalty’ for your country. Before that, I believed that the culture of Japan was the best; but especially through the ethical and moral depth evident in Korean culture, I was truly impressed and filled with respect.”