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The Big Story

The Unification Church in South Korea: a cautionary tale for the LDP

In the church's birth place, politicians with links to the group have not fared well

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.    © AFP/Jiji

SEOUL -- For South Korean politicians' relations with the Unification Church, 1987 was a turning point. That year, Kim Young-sam, a longtime activist and fierce opponent of the military dictatorships that had ruled the country for decades, was running for president.

He was in a tight race on the opposition ticket with Kim Dae-jung, another darling of the anti-dictatorship movement. In the run-up to the vote, Young-sam's campaign was thrown off course by allegations of shady associations with the Unification Church, including claims that Young-sam's camp had accepted millions in funding from the church and that, if elected, he would lay the ground for the church to build its headquarters in a coveted Seoul neighborhood.

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