Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) will release an updated list of members who have had ties to the controversial Unification Church, its general secretary Toshimitsu Motegi said on Tuesday.
Ties between the church and the LDP were the focus of concern after former prime minister Shinzo Abe was shot dead during a campaign rally. The alleged killer blamed him for supporting the church, which he said bankrupted his mother. The church declined to comment on its donations and also said it no longer accepts donations that cause financial hardship.
The LDP said this month that 179 of 379 members surveyed had interacted with the church. In a cabinet reshuffle last month, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida sacked seven ministers who had revealed ties to the church in a bid to reverse a drop in his approval ratings.
However, on Tuesday, Economy Minister Daishiro Yamagiwa admitted at a press conference that he attended a Unification Church-sponsored event in 2018 that he had not previously reported to the left.
When asked if he would consider stepping down as minister, Yamagiwa said he would take responsibility by remaining a minister and implementing the administration’s economic stimulus measures.
“That’s the job I have to do,” he added.
Amid growing public scrutiny of the party’s relationship with the church, the cabinet’s approval rating has dipped to around 30% in recent polls, from a peak of around 60% earlier this year. The low ratings are close to what political analysts say is a danger level beyond which Japanese prime ministers could struggle to carry out their agenda.
A survey by Jiji news agency last week found nearly two-thirds of respondents disapproved of Kishida’s handling of the church’s affairs.