Many Japanese have been shocked by recent revelations that TV personalities YAMAZAKI Hiroko and SAKURADA Junko are members of the Korean-based Unification Church, and that they plan to participate in a mass wedding ceremony in Seoul. The Unification Church, a new religion of Christian origin presided over by Rev. Sun Moon, has been subject to largely negative press coverage in Japan, based on claims that members engage in proselytizing activities under deceitful pretexts. Other members have been accused of engaging in "spiritual merchandising" (reikan shoho), charging illicit prices for sets of cookware or personal seals, based on the claim that the items have been specially purified or blessed, or have other mystical properties.
YAMAZAKI Hiroko is well known as an Olympic athlete in rhythmic gymnastics, while SAKAKURA Junko is a popular former vocalist and actress. Due to their large number of fans, the mere revelation of their membership in the Unification Church is sufficient to startle many Japanese, not to mention the fact that they have expressed willingness to participate in a mass-wedding ceremony with partners selected for them by the Church.
While the Unification Church has tended to be a closed and exclusive group in the past, its representatives have become more open to interviews with press and TV reporters in recent years. Some observant believe that media reports have produced a positive public relations' effect for the Church, while others regard the new attitude as representing a turning point for the Church's activities.