Nearly half of LDP Diet members 'had contacts' with ex-Unification Church

Japan's main ruling Liberal Democratic Party says its in-house survey has found that 179, or nearly half of its Diet members, had some contacts with a religious group previously known as the Unification Church.

LDP Secretary-General Motegi Toshimitsu on Thursday released the results of the survey covering the party's 379 lawmakers. It excludes the heads of both chambers.

Motegi said the 179 members reported that they had some kind of contacts with the group, such as sending congratulatory telegrams to meetings of the group or its affiliates, and having their aides attend such meetings.

He also announced the names of 121 lawmakers who admitted having more substantial links to the group.

Upper House lawmaker Inoue Yoshiyuki and Saito Hiroaki of the Lower House reported that they had received organizational support from the group for their election campaigns.

Inoue said late last month that he had quit as an informal member of the group and would sever all ties with it.

Seventeen party lawmakers said they had received support for their election campaigns on a voluntary basis. They include former Defense Minister Kishi Nobuo, who is now a special advisor to the prime minister, and LDP policy chief Hagiuda Koichi.

Ten members said they had attended meetings hosted by the former Unification Church. They include former education minister Shibayama Masahiko and Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Isozaki Yoshihiko.

A total of 96 lawmakers attended and spoke at meetings of the group's affiliates. They include Economic Revitalization Minister Yamagiwa Daishiro, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister Murai Hideki and Upper House member Ikuina Akiko.

The religious group, now called the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, is in the spotlight for alleged involvement in a dubious marketing practice known as "spiritual sales."

The secretary-general said he takes the survey results seriously. Motegi said the party will make sure its members will reflect on themselves and have no relations whatsoever with the group going forward.

He also said the party will cooperate with the government to prevent damage from dubious practices and extend relief to those who suffered.