An organization affiliated with the Unification Church acquired vast expanses of land in southwest Japan's northern Kyushu region for a project to create an undersea tunnel connecting Japan and South Korea, the Mainichi Shimbun has found.
The land spans at least some 460,000 square meters, the equivalent of about 10 Tokyo Dome stadiums. The affiliated body has also admitted that its predecessor accepted a donation of 10 billion yen, or roughly $75.5 million, from the religious group, now formally known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification. It is possible that the large donations the Unification Church collected from its followers were used toward the goal of realizing the Japan-Korea tunnel project.
It is envisioned that by the undersea tunnel and other means, the Saga Prefecture city of Karatsu would be connected with South Korea via the Nagasaki Prefecture islands of Iki and Tsushima. Late Unification Church founder Sun Myung Moon is said to have proposed the project in 1981.
The land was acquired by the International Highway Foundation (IHF), a Tokyo-based general incorporated foundation that is promoting the tunnel project. Between November and December last year, the Mainichi Shimbun examined the registries of each piece of land based on the IHF's material and other sources. It found out that at least around 165,000 square meters of land was owned by the foundation in the city of Karatsu, some 280,000 square meters in the city of Tsushima, and about 17,000 square meters in the city of Iki. All areas are located along the route of the envisioned tunnel.
A probe into change of ownership of the land found that about 440,000 square meters, or roughly 95% of the total, was donated to the Unification Church between 2010 and 2011. After Moon proposed the project, an IHF contractor and other bodies bought forests and fields in multiple areas, using funds loaned by the Unification Church. The purchased land was later transferred to the Unification Church, as a way to pay off the loan, and was eventually donated to the IHF.
An underground passage for geological surveys has already been excavated in Karatsu, and surveys and construction in preparation for the undersea tunnel project have commenced on the land in southwest Japan.
The Mainichi Shimbun made inquiries about the land with the Unification Church and the IHF, presenting the information it had confirmed. The Unification Church answered, "Please ask the foundation." The IHF, meanwhile, revealed that International Highway Construction Corp., its predecessor established in 1982, received a donation of around 10 billion yen (roughly $75.5 million) from the religious group, and acknowledged that donations from the Unification Church were used in projects, including the acquisition of land. The IHF said it intends to continue the project.
Hiroshi Hirata, a lawyer belonging to the Fukuoka Bar Association, pointed out, "While various groups have been involved in the Japan-Korea tunnel project, this shows the reality that the Unification Church took the lead." He said, "Including donations (from followers) which were recognized as illegal, investigations should verify how the large funds and contributions collected by the church were used."
(Japanese original by Masanori Hirakawa, Kyushu News Department, and Hibiki Yamaguchi, Saga Bureau)
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