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Japan probes Unification Church’s ‘shady’ child adoption deals

The Church is accused of carrying out unauthorized adoption of children among members' families

Flags fly outside a branch facility of the former Unification Church, known officially as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, in Seoul, South Korea

Flags fly outside a branch facility of the former Unification Church, known officially as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo: AFP)

Published: January 24, 2023 12:41 PM GMT

Updated: January 25, 2023 05:39 AM GMT

Japan’s government has ordered the Unification Church to comply with national child adoption rules amid allegations of unauthorized adoption among its believers' families.

Katsunobu Kato, Health, Labor, and Welfare minister, told reporters during a Jan. 23 press conference that an investigation is underway over the church’s shady adoption deals, the Mainichi reported.

“In connection with the adoption mediation business, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare will provide the information collected… to the investigative authorities regarding the facts related to past adoptions,” Kato said.

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The minister stated that a guidance document will be sent on the same day to the Unification Church.

Earlier on Dec. 9, 2022, a similar administrative notice was sent to the Unification Church highlighting the general interpretation of the adoption mediation law.

Minister Kato stated that the details from multiple sources are being collected and handed over to various agencies for investigation.

“[The ministry] has received various opinions and information from people involved in adoptions… but the current situation is that we also provide information to the investigative authorities and continue to collect information in cooperation with related organizations,” said Kato.

Officially known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, the South Korea-based church has been under scrutiny after the son of one of its members shot dead Japan’s former premier Shinzo Abe.

The latest controversy involving the church surfaced after it was accused of facilitating child adoption among its members without authorization from local government officials.

An adopted person was reported saying that he “was extremely shocked because my real parents gave me up for adoption although they were capable of bringing me up,” said local media citing ministry reports.

Japan’s adoption mediation law stipulates that prefectural government permission is required for mediation. If unauthorized mediation and adoption recur, violations of the law are suspected regardless of whether the service is remunerated.

Only social welfare corporations and some other entities with approval from the prefectural governments can function as mediators for adoptions.

Kato urged the Unification Church to refrain from child adoption mediation and revise its contents about adoption in its publications.

“We request that there be no conduct that constitutes an adoption business and that appropriate descriptions be made in church publications aimed at believers,” said Kato.

Allegedly, the church in one of its publications says that it is a "beautiful tradition" of the group to give up a child for adoption by childless families.

The ministry has advised Unification Church to revise the contents of books related to adoption to make them acceptable, the Mainichi reported.

The ministry in its guidance emphasized that adoptions are permitted in situations wherein the biological parents cannot raise their children, or it is inappropriate to leave the children in their parent’s custody.

Japan has stringent laws on child adoption.

Japan permits the adoption of children under the age of six. Families are not allowed to specify the gender of the child that they wish to adopt.

Only married couples can opt for adoption in Japan. The country does not permit same-sex couples, single men, or women to adopt children.

Parents must be no more than 45 years older when seeking to adopt. The prospective parents must be in good health and have no criminal history as per the rules.

According to the Borgen Project, a nonprofit organization, foster families adopt only 12 percent of children who require care.

Japan only places approximately 500 children with families per year through adoption.

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