The Words of Kook Jin Moon
The following interview of Tongil Foundation Chairman Kook Jin Moon appeared in the June 2010 issue of Wolgang JoongAng, one of South Korea's most widely read monthly news magazines.
At about 2 pm on March 23, some 50 women dressed in kimono gathered in front of the Japanese Embassy in Korea located in Jongro Gu, Seoul. One of them help up a loudspeaker and began to speak:
"Incidents of abduction and confinement of Unification Church members are occurring in Japan, even though freedom of religion is guaranteed by the constitution. Some Japanese Protestant ministers, business-oriented lawyers and leftists who run a business of forcing people to change their religion are leading this atrocity are targeting Unification Church members for no other reason than that we have a different faith."
Her eyes behind her glasses began to turn red, and tears began to flow as she continued speaking.
"About 300 Japanese women now living in Korea are women who escaped after being abducted and confined. We would like Japan to take action on a government level to help these people who miss their country but are afraid to go home."
These women were members of the "Committee to Support Korean Victims of Human Rights Violations Resulting from the Abduction and Confinement of Japanese Unification Members." Women who identified themselves to reporters as Japanese wives of Korean men living in Korea began walking toward the main gate to the Japanese embassy. Their purpose was to submit a petition signed by 11,857 people urging the Japanese government to investigate the situation and take preventive action.
On April 21, about a month after the demonstration, a news conference was held at the Seoul Press Center to make public the situation regarding abduction and confinement. One of the people present at this event was Touru Goto, 46, who said he was confined for 12 years and five months (October 1995 to February 2008). One photograph in particular drew people's attention. It showed a man sitting in a wheel chair looking so gaunt and thin that his ribs stuck out. The man in the photograph was Goto.
"I was imprisoned in Apartment No. 904 in an apartment building called "Ogikubo Flower Home" located in the center of Tokyo. I was beaten and cursed at daily. The front door and windows were locked with special locks, and people watched over me so that I could not escape. I finally decided that I could not endure such a living hell any longer, so I began to fast. I fasted for twenty days on two occasions and did another fast of thirty days. This caused my weight to go down to 39kg (height 182 cm). After the fasting, they would not give me meals. They only kept pressing me viciously."
According to the Foundation to Support the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity (Tongil Foundation), such incidents of abduction and confinement have been happening for quite some time in all areas of Japan. One person related to the situation said, "The first incident in Japan happened in 1966, and since then there have been some 4,300 Unification Church members (preliminary figure) have become victims of such incidents.
How can such things happen? On April 26, I visited the offices of the Tongil Foundation located in Mapo Gu, Seoul, to get the Unification Church's position on this question. The current head of this foundation is Board Chairman Kook Jin Moon, 40, the fourth son of Rev. Sun Myung Moon.
"I lived my entire life in America until coming to this country in 2005, so I am not yet proficient in Korean," he said, and explained that he would use an interpreter.
According to Tongil Foundation, there are less than 1 million Christians in Japan today, excluding Unificationists. Meanwhile, the number of adherents to Unificationism is close to 300,000 (among these the core membership is around 100,000).
According to the explanation by the Tongil Foundation, some elements in Japan centered on Christian organizations with fundamentalist tendencies have responded to the growth in the membership of Unificationism by vilifying the church.
Questions and answers from the interview were as follows:
Question: When I look at the content from the two press conferences, these incidents of abduction and confinement have been going on for some time. I am curious to know why are you coming out so strongly on this matter now.
About a year ago, my father (Rev. Sun Myung Moon) told me to go to Japan to look over the situation. Until then, there was no detailed information in Korea about these incidents. In the process of going to Japan and checking things myself, I came to know the real situation. I was very surprised to hear Mr. Goto, whom you saw at the news conference, and other victims talk about their experiences. At first, I felt that something unbelievable was happening. So I asked the leaders why they had not handled this situation properly in the past.
They told me they had tried a number of methods, including filing suit and submitting petitions to the government. (the Japanese police) did not prosecute and (the Japanese government) did not take any measures. This was the result of the negative view of the Unification Church within Japan. So I thought of a different solution to this problem. This is not a situation that can be resolved by fighting only in Japan. We saw that we needed to build international public opinion in order to get justice for the victims."
Question: Please be more specific about how Unificationists are viewed in Japanese society.
"We have gathered numerous examples of people being victimized, and it is so bad that we have to suspect that the position of the Japanese government and media may actually be that they encourage the persecution of Unificationists. In particular, the Japanese media has maintained a critical stance against the Unification Church that one would have to say is excessive. This can be seen in two aspects. The first is that Unificationism is a religion that began in Korea. Unificationism is a religion with a messianic mission, so Japanese Unificationists are loyal to Rev. Moon, who is a Korean. So Japanese nationalists with a dislike for Korea have a strong dislike for Unificationism. Another important point is that Unificationism exercised considerable influence in the anti-Communist movement in Japan during the 1980s. For this reason, the Japan Communist Party has even declared that the destruction of the Unification Church is a matter of policy for that party. We are told that many of the critical journalists are connected to leftist organizations."
Question: Who is doing the abduction and confinement?
"Our understanding is that some Christian ministers who think that Unificationism is a heresy are working with people affiliated with the Japan Communist Party, people who specialize in getting people to change their religious faith and lawyers who are in this for the money. These people contact parents and other family members of Unificationists and give them slanderous information about the church. Then they tell the parents that they will be willing to change their child's faith if the family will pay the costs. Once this negotiation is complete, the abduction process begins. So, in effect, they are using the families."
Question: Do you have proof that the Japanese government is ignoring this problem?
In the case of Touru Goto, he filed a criminal complaint against his abductors soon after he escaped. Yet, the prosecutor's office determined that they would not prosecute the case on grounds of a lack of evidence. It is not just Mr. Goto. Victories have been won in a limited number of civil cases, but in criminal cases the decision by authorities has always been that they will not prosecute. The police are even worse. There have been frequent situations where a person in confinement manages to contact the police. Even if the police respond to the scene, they just walk away. It doesn't matter to them that a person is shouting out 'Please help me.'"
Question: Isn't it because they see this as a family issue?
That makes no sense. These are not minors. An individual who is between 20 and 40 years of age is asking the police for help, but the police pretend not to hear. How can such a thing happen? Even if this involves members of the same family, violence is being used and a person is being confined against his or her will. This is nothing other than a criminal act. Women Unificationists have been raped, they have been told that they should abort a fetus whose father was a Korean Unificationist. One woman Unificationist was put under so much pressure that she finally took her own life while in captivity. This is not just a violation of human rights. It is a crime of violence."
Chairman Moon referred to the situation in the United States. During the 1970s, there were a number instances in the U.S. where Unificationists were confined. The U.S. authorities, however, prosecuted those involved and these instances soon disappeared.
Question: I heard there was an instance involving a Korean husband and his Japanese wife who were both confined while visiting Japan together.
"Yes. Fortunately, the Korean embassy in Japan intervened on behalf of the husband, because he was a Korean citizen, and he was freed. The interesting thing is that it was only when the embassy went into action that the Japanese police began to move. This shows that the Japanese police can resolve this matter if they want to. The only reason they ignore these crimes is that the victims are Unificationists.
Question: Has the Unification Church taken public stands, either domestically or around the world, on Tokto or any of the other controversial issues between Korea and Japan?
"No, we haven't. In Japan, we carry out a peaceful movement. We have also done activity to oppose communism as a part of our effort to protect democracy and the market economy. Of course, some Japanese wives living in Korea, acting in their own individual capacities independently of the church, have visited respected elders in their region on occasions such as March 1 and Independence Day to offer their apologies for the crimes that Japan committed during its 36-year oppressive rule of Korea. After coming to live in Korea with their husbands, they come to realize the situation with issues such as the forced conscription of Korean men to work in Japan as virtual slaves and of Korean women to serve as prostitutes for Japanese soldiers in battle zones.
They express their own private belief from a human rights perspective that the Japanese government should compensate the victims and issue apologies. I understand that actually quite a few Japanese wives in Korea have done this. Let me add one more thing. Right now, there are about 100 Japanese wives who have been awarded "Filial Piety Awards" by their local communities and local governments in Korea who are afraid to return to Japan for fear of being abducted if they do. There are many good-hearted people who have put down their roots in Korean society and are carrying on good works. I feel sorry for them that they have to go through this."
Chairman Moon continued by saying, "There is an aspect that the problem has become more difficult because most Japanese wives keep their Japanese citizenship and live in Korea with permanent resident status." He said that this makes it difficult for the Korean government to put pressure on Japan from an aspect of protecting its own citizens. He seemed to hold out hope for the amended Citizenship Law that passed the National Assembly on April 21.
"Dual nationality will be permitted to Japanese wives who immigrate to Korea as a result of marriage. Once they have Korean citizenship, I'm sure it will be difficult for the Japanese government to be as so consistently uninterested as they are now and continue to refuse to take any steps on this issue. It will have a strong possibility to become a diplomatic problem."
Question: Do you think there is room for the Korean government to help?
"Of course. If public opinion is behind it, our government can raise the issue with the Japanese government."
Question: Has the Tongil Foundation prepared a plan with regard to this problem?
We plan to take all necessary steps on a continuous basis. In a very peaceful way. For example, there is a plan for a letter-writing campaign by children of the Japanese wives to their Japanese grandparents. There is also a plan for a demonstration in front of the Japanese embassy by the Korean husbands. This demonstration may happen around the time of Independence Day. Many of the Japanese wives live in different provinces and municipalities around the country, so they are holding news conferences with local press in their region so that more people can know the facts surrounding abduction and confinement.
Question: Are you considering legal steps?
Yes, of course. Right now, we are gathering affidavits in preparation for legal analysis. Some existing affidavits are not at a legally suitable standard, so we are asking the individuals to redo them. We have already gathered hundreds of affidavits, and we plan to gather thousands. At the same time, we are asking for help from the U.S. Congress and the U.N. Human Rights Council. We want to raise this issue with media across the world so that we can appeal to world public opinion."
Chairman Moon added that the situation inside Japan is changing little by little.
"A surprising thing is that some parents who were involved in abduction and confinement have realized that this was something wrong and are preparing an organization (tentative name, "Parents Committee on Measures against Abduction and Confinement of Unification Church Members"). They are doing this so that they can pursue charges against those in the background who were actually leading this. Parents are starting to realize that they were fooled and that money was taken from them. This doesn't mean that these parents are joining the Unification Church."
As the interview was coming to a close, Chairman Moon spoke with a sad expression. "Many people are going through a lot of suffering," he said. " Please help them."