Updated June 29, 2019
週刊新潮 Shūkan Shinchō magazine – December 19, 1996 pages 48-52
The mystery of the emigration of 4,200 Unification Church women to South America where one of them committed suicide. She left three children behind.
❖ Added information – Introduction:
Mrs Namiko Motomura was one of the 4,200 Japanese women who traveled to Uruguay in late 1996 when $80million was deposited into Banco de Credito in one week.
Chicago Tribune December 8, 1994 by Kerry Luft
David Bromley, a Virginia Commonwealth University sociologist specializing in religious movements, [said]. “(Moon) wants to be able to move money around without being tracked, because there are lots of people out there trying to track him.” …
“There’s no question that he has a lot of money and has substantial investments in Korea that made him a wealthy individual in his own right,” said Bromley, co-author of a book on Moon’s church in America.
“Most churches are founded and then create an economic base,” he added. “He has created an economic base first to fund his church, and that’s what causes some suspicion.”
From the “Reputations: Sun Myung Moon, Emperor of the Universe” documentary made by the BBC in 2000.
Narrator: “In poor Uruguay the army had won a wasting war with Tupamaros guerrillas. The capital, Montevideo, was an off-shore banking center were rich foreigners could hide their cash. For Moon it held other attractions too.”
Michael Hershman: “A friendly legal environment. That is laws and regulations that were not as well developed as here in the United States. A fairly uneducated and poor population who was ready to accept a message of anyone who made promises for a better life.”
Narrator: “Moon called Uruguay his oasis. Today he owns newspapers and sponsors radio programmes that preach family values. As Moon sees it, if only the world would listen, all its problems … would simply vanish.” … “By the late 1980s Moon owned so much property in Montevideo that locals wryly renamed it ‘Moontevideo’. Moonies say that this palatial building was going to be his home, his Latin American sanctuary.
Instead he chose a lush resort on the ocean [at Punta del Este], and a ranch by a river where he could fish. Here he hoped to find peace.” …
“Moon built Uruguay’s first luxury hotel [The Victoria Plaza Hotel]. He also bought a bank [Banco de Credito]. On one occasion bank employees claimed that 4,000 Japanese Moonies had suddenly showed up, depositing millions of dollars in cash.”
Juan Ramos (Bank Worker’s Association): “The money still had the U.S. Federal Reserve band around it. More than $80 million was deposited over the course of a week.”
Consortium News, 1998 by Samuel Blixen
(compiled from two of his articles – Links below)
“In 1996, for instance, the Uruguayan bank employees union blew the whistle on one scheme in which some 4,200 female Japanese followers of Moon allegedly walked into the Moon-controlled Banco de Credito in Montevideo and deposited as much as $25,000 each.
The money from the women went into the account of an anonymous association called Cami II, which was controlled by Moon’s Unification Church. In one day, Cami II received $19 million and, by the time the parade of women ended [after a week], the total had swelled to about $80 million. It was not clear, however, where the money originated and whether it came from illicit sources. Nor was it known how many other times Moon’s organization has used this tactic – sometimes known as “smurfing” – to transfer untraceable cash into Uruguay.
In the Shadow of the Moons by Nansook Hong (pages 171-173)
“In 1992 Mrs Moon told me I would accompany her on a ten-city tour of Japan. … The worshipful devotion accorded True Mother in Japan was beyond anything I had ever experienced in Korea. I had expected Mrs. Moon to be accommodated with the best hotel suites and the finest food, but what I saw in Japan was beyond pampering. …
Japan could fairly be said to be the site of the first imperial cult. In the nineteenth century, the Japanese emperor was declared a deity and the Japanese people descendants of ancient gods. State Shintoism, abolished by the Allies in 1945 after World War II, required the Japanese to worship their leaders. Obedience to authority and self-sacrifice were considered the greatest virtues.
It was no wonder, then, that Japan was fertile fund-raising ground for a messianic leader like Sun Myung Moon. Eager young Unification Church members found elderly people anxious to ensure that their loved ones came to a peaceful rest in the spirit world. To that end, they fleeced thousands of people out of millions of dollars for religious vases, prayer beads, and religious pictures to guarantee that their deceased family members entered the Kingdom of Heaven. A small jade pagoda could sell for as much as fifty thousand dollars. Wealthy widows were conned into donating all of their assets to the Unification Church to guarantee that their loved ones would not languish in hell with Satan.
It was an extraordinary scene to witness. Church members waited on Mrs. Moon. Church leaders brought her stacks of money. …
Sun Myung Moon explained Japan’s crucial financial relationship to the Unification Church in theological terms. South Korea is “Adam’s country” and Japan is “Eve’s country.” As wife and mother, Japan must support the work of Father’s country, Sun Myung Moon’s Korea. There was more than a little vengeance in this view. Few Koreans, including Sun Myung Moon and his followers in the Unification Church, have ever forgiven the Japanese for their brutal forty-year occupation of Korea.
Members of the family of Sun Myung Moon were thoroughly scrutinized by customs agents whenever leaving Korea or entering the United States. This trip was no exception. One benefit of her enormous entourage was that Mrs. Moon had plenty of traveling companions with whom to enter the country. I was given twenty thousand dollars in two packs of crisp new bills. I hid them beneath the tray in my makeup case. I held my breath in Seattle when customs agents began searching my luggage. I was the last of our party to go through customs, and the woman searching my bags seemed determined to find something. I pretended I did not speak English and could not understand her questions. An Asian supervisor came over and chastised her. “Can’t you see she only speaks Korean,” the supervisor said, smiling at me. “Let her through.”
I knew that smuggling was illegal, but I believed the followers of Sun Myung Moon answered to higher laws. It was my duty to serve without question. I did what I was told, worrying more that I might lose the money than that I might be arrested. I was so grateful to God that they didn’t find the money. In the distorted lens through which I viewed the world, God actually had thwarted the customs agents. God did not want them to find that money because that money was for God.
If I had thought about it with any critical sense, I would have realized that the money raised by street peddlers and pagoda sellers had little to do with God. … ”
Moon’s Japanese Profits Bolster Efforts in U.S.
– The Washington Post Sept 16, 1984
“Yoshikazu Soejima [ex-member of the FFWPU who was a top leader in Japan, and nearly died in a stabbing attack] said these transactions were usually made through international bank transfers, but large amounts of cash were carried into the United States by church members because “sometimes Moon wants money right away. Getting permission to send it by bank transfer takes time.”
When Moon conducted a “mass wedding” of 2,075 couples in Madison Square Garden in 1982, 400 Japanese men and women were flown over for the event. “Each person took, I think, about $2,000,” Soejima said.” LINK
Shūkan Shinchō magazine:
In Montevideo, the capital city of Uruguay in South America, there was an incident were a 38-year-old Japanese woman committed suicide by jumping from the 17th floor of a high-rise hotel. Mrs Namiko Motomura, who died, was a member of the Unification Church. She had been attending a local meeting while on her way to Brazil. To tell the truth, she came here because the Unification Church sent 4,200 Japanese women to South America, and she was one of them. Beside the mass wedding ceremonies, what is the aim of the Unification Church which initiated this large movement of members to South America?
“The first I heard about it was in the evening of December 3rd,” said Namiko’s mother. “There was a phone call from a person who said they were from the Unification Church. They said, ‘Namiko has been involved in a sudden accident and has apparently died.’ All of a sudden, I did not understand what on earth was going on. I asked for clarification but was only told again and again, ‘I do not know any details yet; she seems to have fallen off a cliff or something.’ ‘Anyway, I want you to go there,’ and that was all. I was confused…” said Namiko’s mother, who was waiting for news at home in Kagoshima, Japan. After receiving the news of the tragedy, Namiko’s father and younger sister rushed to the location with Namiko’s husband.
The incident occurred at around 9:15 on the evening of the 2nd, local time (the time difference was minus 12 hours). Namiko was had fallen, not from a cliff, but from the 17th floor of the Victoria Plaza Hotel in Montevideo, where she was staying. She fell onto a car that had been parked near the entrance and died instantly. Following the autopsy, the police concluded they were almost certain it was suicide.
❖ Two photos added:
▲ The 24-story convention center and expansion of the Victoria Plaza Hotel which was opened in 1996. According to the Chicago Tribune, the expansion alone cost about $80million. The hotel also has a casino.
Originally, Namiko entered Uruguay in order to participate in a ‘Sister to Sister Pairing Ceremony’ [Bridge of Peace Ceremony] held in Montevideo on November 24th. This was sponsored by the Women’s Federation for World Peace, which is an affiliate of the Unification Church.
Mr. Masuo Oe, Director of Public Relations for the Unification Church, said, “In the ‘Sister to Sister Pairing Ceremony’ the women of the Family Federation for World Peace are paired to each other to expand the ‘Family Reconstruction Movement.’ It is a ceremony to enable the sisters to build relationships with their companions. The ‘Family Reconstruction Movement’ talks about the love between husband and wife, family bonds and the preciousness of purity, etc. The purpose is also to eliminate adultery, reduce free sex, reduce conflicts within the family, and to restore true family love and peace. We have been holding Sister to Sister Pairing Ceremonies since 1993.”
It seems that there are already 1,700 paired sisters between Japan and Korea, and 18,000 pairs between Japan and the United States. This time, 4,200 Japanese women came to Uruguay for this ceremony and Namiko was one of them.
❖ Evidently the women were given cash to carry; it totaled $80million.
“The seminar began locally on the evening of November 23; the sisterhood ceremony was held on the 24th and the seminar continued until the 30th. The seminar was based on lectures by Rev. Sun Myung Moon and other Unification Church leaders.”
❖ Added information with three photos:
From Today’s World, an FFWPU publication February 1997 (pages 23-24)
“We arrived at the Victoria Plaza Hotel at 10:30 a.m. just in time for the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new convention center. This new building, which was in the planning and construction stage for the past ten years, is a remarkable contribution to the Uruguayan economy and tourism industry…
At 3:00 p.m., we took the guests to the Cilindro indoor arena where the first national Uruguayan-Japanese sisterhood ceremony took place. 4,200 Japanese sisters and about 1,000 Uruguayan ladies heard keynote speaker, the Hon. Walter Hickle, former U.S. Governor of Alaska, and other speakers including Dr. Bo Hi Pak, Mrs. Motoko Sugiyama, Women’s Federation for World Peace (WFWP) President of Japan, and several local WFWP representatives.
In the evening, Father (Sun Myung Moon) addressed the workshop guests by skillfully launching into a profound explanation of the poverty that pervades Latin America, the responsibility of the leadership, and particularly the essential need to avoid the example of the United States which has in many cases squandered its blessings and today faces the consequences of years of immorality and indecisiveness. …
The next two days, Dr. Thomas Ward and Steve Boyd gave Divine Principle lectures. It was straight, out-of-the-book, no holds-barred Principle.”
“On Tuesday evening, Father returned and once again love-bombed everyone. He spoke for two hours and passionately asked everyone to work with him to save their nations.”
Shūkan Shinchō magazine:
Mr. Masuo Oe, “On completion of the seminar, from December 1st, the pairs were supposed to be assigned to countries all over South America. But at the time Mrs Motomura was preparing to head towards Brazil, she committed suicide.”
Since 4,200 Japanese women [carrying cash] poured in all at once, not all of them could find hotels in the city. Most of them stayed in the municipal gymnasium, which was the venue for the ceremony. However, Namiko had health problems and had been transferred to the hotel.
“Some of the 4,200 people were overseas for the first time, and some of them got stressed at being in an unfamiliar environment. In that case they were supposed to move to a hotel and see a doctor. There was a group of about twenty at most at the hotel, and Mrs Motomura was one of them. From what I heard, she came to the hotel two days before her suicide, and was in a so-called depressed state,” said a local spokesperson for the Unification Church.
She had participated in a mass wedding in Seoul
However, Namiko’s mother is not convinced by this explanation. She said, “I cannot believe it is suicide. When we talked on the phone just before she left to go overseas, everything seemed to be just as usual.
“I was told that she was going to Brazil when she called around the middle of last month. She said actually she had decided to go alone to Brazil. When she said she was going for one year, I was vehemently opposed to that.
“So I told her, ‘what are you doing, leaving your children alone for a year.’ She said I need not worry because after a while, around the New Year or March, her husband was supposed to join her with the children. In the end, no matter how much I opposed her plan, she would not listen. She said that she will absolutely go, so we had to give up trying to persuade her otherwise.”
Her stubborn decision might be understandable if one considers the story of her faith. After graduating from a district high school in Kagoshima, Namiko went to a vocational school and worked for a hairdresser in a local beauty parlor where she was resident. While there, she joined the Unification Church. In 1982 she participated in the 6000 couple mass wedding ceremony held in Seoul, Korea. She was married to Sergio Uemura Toshikazu (40), a Japanese Brazilian.
Namiko’s mother, “Of course I objected to the marriage. But finally I accepted their marriage, thinking if he liked her then it couldn’t be helped,” said her mother, reflecting on the past.
“After she got married, she immediately went to Brazil. They were overseas for five or six years. Then suddenly one day I got a phone call from Mie Prefecture. They said they had returned to Japan to live in Yokkaichi. The story was that they were working at an auto parts company in Yokkaichi. There were people who had come from Brazil to work, and it seems they were working as interpreters in their own business. During this time, they had three children. Then about a year ago, they quit the company. After that Namiko worked as an insurance sales representative, and her husband, Mr Toshikazu, started his own business delivering meat.”
Meanwhile, her parents took every opportunity to advise Namiko to get out of the Unification Church. “Especially during the last two or three years there has been a commotion about the Unification Church on television and in the magazines. I thought I could not let her remain a member any longer and told her so many times. But she kept saying that the stories on TV were ridiculous, and she didn’t listen to us at all.
“I have no choice now, but if I had spoken to her more strongly such a thing would not have happened…. Even then, suicide does not make sense. Maybe there was something to do with the church.” Understandably, her mother is overcome with grief.
Mr. Kazuyoshi Noro took care of the couple. He was the head of the Unification Church in Mie and lived in Yokkaichi.
He held his head on one side and said, “This incident is very bizarre. Mrs. Motomura had a long history of faith and was well aware that suicide was against the teachings. Mrs Motomura and her husband had a good relationship and were said to be an ‘exemplary couple.’ They were also fervent about their faith and attended worship every week without fail. It is really impossible for such a person to commit suicide. I have never heard any stories about neurosis or mental instability.”
Almost all are married female members
So, what did happen to Namiko? “I don’t know the cause of her suicide, but in fact, the proportion of suicides within the Unification Church is considerable,” says a journalist who is familiar with the Unification Church problem.
Pastor Keiko Kawasaki of the United Church of Christ in Japan, who is counseling members of the Unification Church to leave, pointed out:
“All responsibility for any stagnation in religious activities is attributed to the individual member. Members must suppress their natural human emotions and desires, and they are repeatedly exposed to the pressures of God’s providence. Consequently there are quite a few cases where the mind and body become divided and the members get into a state of neurosis.”
In particular, for this trip to South America, it is impossible to overlook the fact that most of the 4,200 female members were married.
“This time the married women who have traveled to South America will be thinking of their children every day. If they have left a family behind in Japan and they hear they have been injured or are sick, they will want to fly home. Mentally they will always feel cornered and they are also in a state of physical fatigue.
“Both the mind and body are pushed to an extremely unhealthy state over long periods of time. And if the mind is weakened, they may not consciously understand what is going on, and the mind can snap. You can understand that in this disconnected state, being vigorously encouraged to do missionary and economic activities, mental confusion can develop.”
There is no guarantee that a second or a third Namiko will not emerge. But why are only married women sent to South America?
Pastor Kawasaki continued, “Because children are not able to move along with the plans of Sun Myung Moon, they are useless to the Unification Church. It might have been good to be blessed together at a mass wedding ceremony, but when the wife’s belly grew bigger they could not be on the front line. I suppose they are forcing such women back onto the front line. It would be impossible for the mother to work alongside their children, so they send the mothers alone to South America to work.”
The name of the organization might be the Family Federation for World Peace, but it may be said that it is doing the opposite by destroying the peace of the family.
Pastor Kawasaki added, “The Family Federation for World Peace, under the cover of the name, betrays groups and sends married women to foreign countries in a haphazard and irresponsible manner. The destination is decided by Amida lottery [an oriental lottery method for making random pairings]. They are told to leave their children behind. This is too much. We have already received about ten consultations concerning parents who have left their children behind with grandparents.
“There was a case where both the grandparents were not well, but their daughter suddenly left for South America. She pushed two young children onto her parents. There was another a case where a mother brought her three month old baby home to her parents and left the following morning. The grandparents found a letter which explained “because I had to go to South America.”
The fundamental behavior of the Unification Church, which was once said to be “the Principle Movement of crying parents” has not changed one bit.
[Principle Movement = Unification Church of Japan]
Decline due to loss of sources of income
In recent years in the Unification Church, as a background to the mass migration of followers to South America, there seems to have been a painful problem concerning the financial situation of the church [in Japan].
“It is said that church funds have plummeted since the scandal of the Spiritual Sales. [Marble vases and marble pagodas, etc., were pressure sold to the Japanese members and the public for incredible prices, as means to liberate sinful ancestors who were allegedly ‘stuck in hell’. Sicknesses were blamed on ‘bad’ ancestors.] The church income is now about a tenth of what it was [before the scandal].
❖ Photo added:
▲ Some of the items sold in Japan during the Spiritual Sales scandal. Top right is a Buddha statue connected with the Tenchi-Seikyō scam.
Since the Aum Shinrikyo sarin gas attack incident in Tokyo it has also become more difficult to do missionary work and recruit new members. Sun Myung Moon decided, all of a sudden, to shift the base of economic activity from Japan to South America,” said a former member.
“Since the 1980s the Unification Church [and its CAUSA project] had already established a foothold for advancement there. In Uruguay they [bought one newspaper, Noticias del Uruguay and established another] newspaper [Últimas Noticias] and acquired banks [Banco de Credito], marble factories and [two of the largest] printing businesses. [They also bought the largest publishing house in Uruguay, Editorial Polo; a restaurant and a meat-packing plant.] The hotels where the members have stayed this time were bought early on.
“In that country it is not illegal to set up a company with 100% foreign capital, so they could just throw in the funds they had collected. And now they are finally starting to hit by sending members.”
❖ Added information:
Global Policy Forum (2001): The Unification Church is said to be building another casino in a tourist resort near the Argentine border. Its large Uruguayan holdings also include the Corporation Rioplatense de Hoteles S.A. and Hotel Horacio Quiroga. LINK
Consortium News (1998): Moon also bought the ex-Frigorifico Nacional, a cool-storage house; the Astilleros Tsakos dockyard and other privatized port services; a travel agency and vast tracts of real estate.
A former journalist says Uruguay is not alone. There is also capital investment in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, etc.
The 4,200 female members who were sent to Uruguay this time were divided into teams of 120 people. Their power was scattered over 35 countries in three different areas, namely North, Central and South America.
The aforementioned journalist says, “I think that Sun Myung Moon has finally begun to implement his “Sao Paulo Declaration.” In March 1995 Sun Myung Moon was in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where he said: “I am moving the foundation of the Unification Church to South America. My aim is to unify the religion, language, economy and science of North and South America.” This is his delusional vision.
Now that all activities in the Philippines have been forbidden and Moon’s entry into the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth countries became virtually impossible and activities in Japan became difficult, Sun Myung Moon’s strategy is to send members to a new place. The only thing to say is that it is a ridiculous fantasy.”
One big event which is planned is a mass wedding of 360,000 couples scheduled to be held in Washington, DC on Wednesday, November 29th next year.
The Unification Church explained,
“We are going to gather 80,000 people at the Kennedy Stadium and relay it to the 185 nations of the world by satellite broadcast and make it a worldwide mass wedding. The women who complete the seminar [in Uruguay] are supposed to invite people to this mass wedding ceremony while doing volunteer work in their respective countries.”
(Mr. Oe, UC Public Relations Manager)
As he speaks, he puffs out his chest. But whether such a large project goes according to plan is open to question.
“It means the Unification Church is now finally in a state of death,” remarks a former believer rather indifferently.
“In the end, the Unification Church’s greatest and only source of funding was Japan. The members themselves know that the best. If Japan is abandoned and many members are forced to move, the decline of the church is inevitable.”
It is strange that there are believers who still have not woken up, even after the church has got to this situation.
❖ Added information:
In December 2005, while on tour Moon returned to visit Uruguay and on that occasion he met with President Tabaré Vázquez, with whom he took photographs.
During that tour, the then Argentine president, Néstor Kirchner, refused to receive Moon.
(Últimas Noticias newspaper closed in 2012. In September workers were negotiating for unpaid wages.)
The original Japanese text:
Rev. Moon’s 1998 Uruguay Bank Scam
– by Samuel Blixen November 6, 1998
The right-wing theocrat ‘craters’ a bank.
The Observer, Uruguay Tuesday, December 3, 1996
Five religious followers who were in the Cilindro Municipal have disappeared
Moon’s Missionary threw herself from the Victoria Plaza Hotel
A Japanese missionary of the Moon sect apparently committed suicide yesterday by throwing herself from the 17th floor of the Victoria Plaza Hotel where she was staying, while five of the 4,200 … in the Cilindro Municipal escaped from that l … about 20:45 last night, a missionary … to the circle of collaborators of Reverend Moon … building. Her body hit a parked vehicle [and she] died instantly. The Police, although d … hypothesis of the accident, investigates the causes … of the other five missing followers of the religion.
The Observer, Society Wednesday, December 4, 1996
The judge awaits the autopsy of the Japanese missionary
Versions about the suicide of the Japanese member
The person accompanying Namiko Motomura told the police that she neglected her for a few minutes to go to the bathroom, but related people were sure that the companion fell asleep.
The episode that caused “deep sadness” among [the Japanese population]
… The Banking Association of Uruguay (AEBU) spoke to… in which “he will challenge the pressures” to which … of the Moon group … founded in Uruguay” …
Namiko Motomura was housed in the Victoria Plaza because of her … she had been depressed for some time. “We did not find … suspect a criminal act behind the death of this woman” … [Sal] vador. Section 1 police officers and the Supervision of …
The Observer, Society Friday, December 6, 1996
The magistrate received a report on the death of the Japanese missionary
The autopsy confirmed that it was suicide
Judge Jorge Imas found “contradictions” in the declarations of those close to the Moon sect which are “normal” in these cases… The judge inquired among the missionaries.
… the forensic doctor … injuries that were attributed … [to her fall onto the parked car] in the street. The inspection … Namiko Motomura, as her condition …