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Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks at a news conference during the 77th UN General Assembly in New York.

REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs

Will Japan's PM avoid the "danger zone" after Abe funeral?

Japan held a controversial state funeral Tuesday for former PM Shinzo Abe, who was assassinated in early July. Now that the ceremony is over, one attendee who'll feel some relief is Fumio Kishida, the embattled current prime minister.

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Jess Frampton

Why Japan’s political Moonies have staying power

When Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida reshuffled his cabinet for the first time since former PM Shinzo Abe’s assassination earlier this summer, it was a response to his falling approval rating. His government was struggling to tame rising COVID infections and acute inflation.

But it was also seen as damage control for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s ties to the controversial Unification Church. Kishida fired cabinet ministers linked to the cult-like religious movement born in South Korea whose members are known as Moonies (after founder Sun Myung Moon).

Although the PM also promised only to appoint future cabinet members who agree to review their relationship with the church, it wasn’t enough. After his popularity plummeted 16 percentage points in just a month to 36%, its lowest level since he took power, Kishida this week demanded all cabinet members review their past ties to the religious group.

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Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his cabinet ministers pose for a photo in Tokyo, Japan.

REUTERS/Issei Kato

What We're Watching: Japanese PM's cabinet reshuffle, Zelensky's bold speech, India's green bill

Moonies out of the Japanese government

Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Wednesday removed all cabinet ministers linked to the controversial Unification Church from South Korea, whose members are known as Moonies (after founder Sun Myung Moon). The ruling Liberal Democratic Party came under intense scrutiny over its ties to the church following the shocking assassination last month of former PM Shinzo Abe, whose assassin blamed the church for his family’s financial ruin. Abe was not a member but praised the conservative values of the Moonies, who campaigned on behalf of his brother — the biggest name to get a pink slip from Kishida. The PM — with no ties to the church — has had a wild ride in the polls lately. His approval rating initially skyrocketed out of sympathy for the slain leader, sweeping the LDP to a big victory in the upper house elections just days later. But now his popularity has tanked to the lowest level since he took office due to a backlash against the church, long suspected of pulling the LDP's strings. The cabinet reshuffle may help boost Kishida’s numbers a bit, but he’s not out of the woods: COVID infections keep rising, and a slim majority of Japanese citizens oppose the government-funded state funeral for Abe planned for Sept. 27.

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