The Rev. Sun Myung Moon (1920-2012) was the leader of the Unification Church. He was Korean and considered himself a messiah and often wore a paper crown when he spoke and at one time had millions of followers known as Moonies. According to church teachings, Jesus failed to restore mankind to the grace of God and thus Moon was placed to earth as the second messiah to complete the job.

Rev. Moon was known as much for his political activities wealth as his religious leadership. He was a friend and supporter of authoritarian president Park Chung Hee in South Korea and Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan in the United States. The Unification Church was one of several anti-communist evangelic protestant groups that sprung up after the Korean War. For a time it subsidized by the South Korean government. In spite of his reputation as an anti-Communist, Rev. Moon visited North Korea. The formal head of the Unification Church, Bo Hi Pak, attended the funeral of North Korean leader Kim Il Sung. The Unification church formed a relationship with Louis Farakan’s Nation of Islam, helping to support his Million Man March, and gave Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University a US$3.5 million when it faced bankruptcy.

Daniel J. Wakin wrote in the New York Times: Moon was a “Korean evangelist, businessman and self-proclaimed messiah who built a religious movement notable for its mass weddings, fresh-faced proselytizers and links to vast commercial interests.” He “courted world leaders, financed newspapers and founded numerous innocuously named civic organizations. To his critics, he pursued those activities mainly to lend legitimacy to his movement, known as the Unification Church, although his methods were sometimes questionable. In 2004, for example, he had himself crowned “humanity’s savior” in front of astonished members of Congress at a Capitol Hill luncheon.” [Source: Daniel J. Wakin, New York Times, September 2, 2012]

First president George Bush once called Moon a "visionary." He, former President Gerald R. Ford, Bill Cosby and Mikhail S. Gorbachev all attended Moon banquets. Whitney Houston was offered more than US$1 million to perform at a Moonie event but canceled out at the last minute because of headache. Donald N. Clark wrote in “Culture and Customs of Korea”: “For most of his life Sun Myung Moon has existed on the fringes of Korean Christianity, shunned by most Christians and regarded as a strange individual by most South Koreans. But he has drifted in and out of respectability...He established himself as an implacable antiCommunist and as such was useful to the military regime in South Korea. [Source: “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Greenwood Press, 2000]


Unification Church

Arguable Korea's most well-known new-religion-cult, the Unification Church was a semi-Christian organization with large international following, famous for its brain-washed followers and mass weddings. It was founded by Rev. Moon in 1954, not long after the end of the Korean War. [Source: Marc Fischer and Jeff Leen, Washington Post, November 24, 1997; Alex Tresniowski, Time, September 28, 1998; David Remick, New Yorker, September 14, 1998]

The Unification Church combined Christianity, most notably Presbyterianism, with elements of Buddhism, Taoism , anti-Communism and Confucianism and pulled in lots of money. The church caught the attention of people in the United States in the 1970s when Moonies (Unification Church followers) were often seen at airports and street corners panhandling and selling roses. The church’s sister organization, the Federation of World Peace and Unification, promoted family values and faith in God.

The Unification Church claimed to have 2 million to 3 million followers at its peak in the 1980s. The true figure is most likely was much lower. Church membership reportedly dropped significantly in the 1990s in the United States, from 50,000 to around 30,000. In Japan, however, there were still hundreds of thousands of Moonies at the time. The Unification Church is was regarded by many as a cult at least in part, critics claimed, because it brainwashed its members and prevented them from seeing their families.

Daniel J. Wakin wrote in the New York Times: The Unification Church “claimed up to three million members worldwide, but historians of religion dispute that number, estimating a membership of 50,000 at the church’s height in the late 1970s, with only a few thousand in the United States. Membership has been difficult to evaluate more recently; church officials give different estimates and often define membership differently, according to an individual’s level of involvement.” [Source: Daniel J. Wakin, New York Times, September 2, 2012]

In May 1994 on the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Unification Church, Moon declared that the era of the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity — HSA-UWC, the formal name of the Unification Church had ended — and inaugurated a new organization — the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU).

Early Life of Reverend Moon

Moon was born Yong Myung Mun on January 6, 1920 in the impoverished farming village of Sangsa in what is now northwestern North Korea, according to his official biography, when Korea as a Japanese colony. When he was 10, his family joined the Presbyterian Church. Moon attended local schools and lived in a thatched straw hut. [Source: Daniel J. Wakin, New York Times, September 2, 2012; Christopher Reed, The Guardian, September 2, 2012]

At the age of 15, around Easter in 1935, according to Unification Church lore, Moon claimed that Jesus Christ appeared to him while he was praying alone on a hillside and anointed him to establish the kingdom of heaven on earth and challenged him to rid the world of Satan. Moon is said to have agreed to the Christ’s request to "take over my work".

In 1941 Moon moved to Tokyo studied electrical engineering at Waseda University. He graduated and two years later he returned to Korea and married Sun Kil Choi, then 19, who bore him a son but is not mentioned in church histories. Following the Japanese surrender after World War II in 1945, Moon lived in Seoul and joined a church there called the Israel Jesus Church, which preached that Korea was the new Israel, conducted sexual “purification” rituals and asserted the second coming of Christ would take place in Korea, a message Moon exploited.

Moon In North Korea

In 1946, Moon went to Pyongyang to spread Christianity. Christopher Reed wrote in The Guardian, “He quit this church and, leaving his young family, went north where Pyongyang seethed with evangelical fervour. Moon began preaching his own neo-Israel prophecy which allegedly included stipulations that allowed him to have sex with female congregants.”

In North Korea, Moon was arrested and imprisoned for several months by Communist authorities. After he was released he was arrested again, charged with preaching a messianic message and “polygamy”, and sentenced to five years of hard labor. He later said that the Communists tortured him. According to his memoir, he was beaten until he vomited blood.

In 1950, during the Korean War, the labour camp, where he was imprisoned and he said he suffered greatly, was destroyed by American bombers, killing 275. Moon was freed by United Nations and made his way south. According to his official biography, he walked 320 miles to Pusan, in far southern Korea, and there built a church with United States Army ration boxes and lived in a one-room mountainside shack, and soon began preaching again. He also began writing down his theological ideas — a mix of Christianity, Confucianism, shamanism, and anti-communist diatribes — sometimes on the walls and ceiling of his hut. [Source: Daniel J. Wakin, New York Times, September 2, 2012; Christopher Reed, The Guardian, September 2, 2012; Mariah Blake, New Republic, November 13, 2013]

Rev. Moon Founds the Unification Church

Rev. Moon moved to Seoul in 1953 and formed the Unification church in 1954. It grew quickly. Within a year, about 30 church centers had sprung up. Moon sent his first missionary to America in 1960. In the 1960s he began making world tours.

Daniel J. Wakin wrote in the New York Times: “Before the decade was out, he published “The Divine Principle,” a dense exposition of his theology that has been revised several times; in her book, Ms. Hong, his daughter-in-law, said it was written by an early disciple based on Mr. Moon’s notes and conversation. He sent his first church emissaries to Japan, the source of early growth, and the United States, and began building his Korean business empire.” [Source: Daniel J. Wakin, New York Times, September 2, 2012]

The Unification Church (T'ongilgyo) was first officially called the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity. Donald N. Clark wrote in “Culture and Customs of Korea”: “To support his church” Moon “turned to commerce, setting up factories that made weapons as well as gift packages of the medicinal root ginseng. He also performed valuable social services by sending church members as volunteers to poorer areas of the country to run kindergartens and help with farming. And for a time he seemed like a good overseas ambassador for Korea, sending an adorable children's choir called the "Little Angels" abroad on concert tours. [Source: “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Greenwood Press, 2000]

Moon and His True Family

According to The Guardian: “Moon is variously reported as having been married twice, three or four times and his children, including those allegedly out of wedlock, are put at anything from eight to 16.” Despite the importance of marriage in his developing theology, Mr. Moon divorced his first wife in 1952 and little has been said about here. In the early years of his his church there were rumors of sexual relations with followers, which the church denied. Moon is said to have fathered a child in 1954.

In 1960, Mr. Moon married the 17-year-old Hak Ja Han, the beautiful daughter of his cook, and later anointed “True Mother.” Mariah Blake wrote in the New Republic, “Moon claimed that their union marked the beginning of the “completed testament” era, in which Moon would reverse the fall of man by making his wife pay penance for Eve’s sins. For three years, he stashed Hak Ja Han in a rented room, kept her in bitter poverty, and forbid her from seeing her family. The goal was to rid her of Eve-like defiance and cultivate “absolute obedience” so that she could bear children free of original sin. By the winter of 1960, the first of these perfect children had arrived.” [Source: Mariah Blake, New Republic, November 13, 2013]

Moon and Hak Ja Han had 13 children — and together they known as the True family. Hak Ja Han. was groomed to lead the church after his oldest son was enveloped in a drink, drugs and wife-beating scandal in the late 1990s. She reportedly was not a great mother According to former church members, she not deeply involved in the upbringing of here children and spent much of her time shopping. Tim Porter, an ex-member who grew up near the family compound, called her the Korean “Imelda Marcos.”

The True Family by all accounts was — and still is — a mess. The oldest son and heir apparent, Hyo Jin, was accused of beating his wife and blowing millions on cocaine. He served two jails sentences, and did at least two stints at the Betty Ford clinic. Two of Moon's daughters fled marriages arranged by their parents and one of them had trouble trying to gain custody of her two children. When a third daughter married an American, Moon didn't even show up at the wedding.

Rev Moon’s Children

Mariah Blake wrote in the New Republic, “Moon raised his brood like the royal children he believed them to be. They attended private schools and had tutors imported from Japan, fast cars, purebred horses, and even hunting weapons.The task of caring for the messiah’s children fell to his followers, who didn’t dare discipline them. “The Moon kids were like gods — completely and utterly exempt from the rules,” says Donna Orme-Collins, a onetime Unificationist whose father directed the British church. Moon’s eldest son, Steve, a plain, slender boy, was particularly brazen. In the late ’70s, he was expelled from an elite middle school for shooting students with a BB gun. Moon sent him to live with Bo Hi Pak,” Moon’s most trusted aide and a member of the South Korean CIA, “ but Steve’s behavior only deteriorated. He started doing drugs and picking fights, and Pak was unable to rein him in. At one point, according to members of the Moon and Pak families, Pak even resorted to spanking his own son — a sweet, studious boy who went by the American name James Park — when Steve got out of line. [Source: Mariah Blake, New Republic, November 13, 2013]

“Moon eventually shipped Steve off to South Korea. There, according to a speech Steve later gave, he joined a rock band and started chugging a bottle of whiskey a day. According to several sources close to the family, including Trenor Rapkins, a former church member who grew up near East Garden, when Steve returned home in the early ’80s, he was more volatile than ever. “He would start yelling, and mucus and spit would start flying out of his face,” Rapkins recalls. “Sometimes he would start throwing punches or waving his gun around.”

“Steve’s behavior made a deep impression on In Jin,” Moon’s daughter, “who had a taste for American culture and chafed at the notion that women should be pure and deferential. According to sources close to the family, by the time she was 16, In Jin was accompanying Steve on all-night drinking jaunts. “She basically worshipped him,” says one member of her inner circle. “She was really into partying and rock and roll, because he played it.” Afraid that American culture was corrupting his children, Moon turned to his religion’s catch-all solution: marriage. In 1982, he arranged for Steve to wed a naïve 15-year-old Korean girl named Nansook Hong. Hong would later recall Mrs. Moon telling her that she had been brought to America to reform Steve and that, should she fail, she would be “failing God.”

“The following year, Moon’s 17-year-old son Heung Jin smashed his Jeep on an icy freeway and died. This created a theological quandary for Moon, since according to his teachings, only married couples could enter God’s kingdom. He solved his dilemma by arranging to have his dead son marry Bo Hi Pak’s second-eldest daughter, Julia. At the same time, In Jin, who was 18, was to wed Pak’s teenage son, James, who had taken the spanking for Steve.

“In Jin was mortified, according to family members. She had no interest in James, who was nerdy and quiet, and she was taken instead with his rowdy, handsome younger brother, Sam. But Moon insisted, and his wife stood by him, despite everything she had endured in her own arranged marriage. She even agreed to co-officiate the macabre ceremony. First, In Jin and James traded vows, then Julia trudged down the aisle holding a photo of the dead Heung Jin, after which James gave a groveling speech. “In a million years, I would never deserve to become the husband of In Jin,” he said. “My mission is to work to deserve it for the rest of my life.” The whole ordeal left In Jin traumatized. “She felt like it was institutional rape,” says one member of her inner circle. Yet whatever resentments In Jin harbored, she remained loyal to her father.

Moon’s Sex Cult. Mistress and Their Son

Mariah Blake wrote in the New Republic, “As it turns out, Moon didn’t always live up to his virtuous teachings, either.” Annie “Choi, who joined Moon’s church along with her mother and sister in the 1950s, alleges that she engaged in numerous sexual rituals — some involving as many as six women — beginning when she was 17 years old. Her story, which is consistent with the accounts of several early followers, supports the claim that Moon’s church started out as a sex cult, with Moon “purifying” female devotees through erotic rites. [Source: Mariah Blake, New Republic, November 13, 2013]

“By 1960, when he married Hak Ja Han, Moon was touting marital fidelity as his religion’s foundational ideal. But Choi maintains she stayed on as Moon’s mistress until 1964, when she moved to the United States. The following year, Moon made his inaugural visit to America. By the time he left, Choi says, she was carrying his child.

“News like this could have sunk the fledgling American project. But Bo Hi Pak,” Moon’s most trusted aide and a member of the Korean CIA, “ made sure that didn’t happen. According to Choi, who has never before spoken publicly about the experience, Pak’s wife stuffed her mid-section with cloth diapers and pretended that she was pregnant. When it came time to give birth, Choi says that Pak accompanied her to the hospital and passed her off as his wife. The following day, he dropped her off at her empty apartment and took the baby back to his home. Later, Mrs. Pak brought Choi some seaweed soup, but Choi told me that she couldn’t eat it. “I just sat there crying, with my tears falling in the pot.”

“Choi stayed in the United States to be near her son, Sam Park — the same young man In Jin had fallen for during her teenage years. (By all accounts, she was unaware that Sam was her half brother.) Then, at age 13, it dawned on Sam that the kindly “aunt” who visited periodically was actually his mother. “Suddenly my life made a lot more sense,” Sam told me.”

Rev Moon’s Children Go Off the Deep End and Go Public

Mariah Blake wrote in the New Republic, “In Jin and James had settled into something resembling Moon’s ideal of married life. James, who held a PhD in finance from Columbia and a law degree from Harvard, launched an investment firm, called Paradigm Global Partners, and began carving out a reputation as a hedge-fund guru. In Jin, who had studied philosophy and political science at Columbia, raised and home-schooled their children. [Source: Mariah Blake, New Republic, November 13, 2013]

“But Steve, who now ran a church-owned music venue, the Manhattan Center, couldn’t manage to put his wild youth behind him. Like other Moon ventures, the Manhattan Center was lavishly funded by Japanese “donations,” which Steve treated as his private ATM. According to people close to the family, he once marched into the office with US$600,000 in a Bloomingdale’s bag and skimmed off US$400,000. It was gone in less than a year.

“The cash fed Steve’s drug addiction. According to sworn statements from Steve’s wife, Nansook Hong, and people close to the family, by the early ’90s, he was spending days holed up in his room gorging on cocaine. And he pressured others to join in, including James Park. Hong claimed that, when she was seven months pregnant with her fifth child, she found Steve doing cocaine at East Garden and tried to flush it down the toilet. Steve “smashed his fist into my face, bloodying my nose,” Hong later recalled. “He wiped my blood on his hand, then licked it off. ‘Tastes good,’ he said. ‘This is fun.’”

“Early one morning in 1995, Hong hustled her five children into the back of a cargo van and fled East Garden. She later filed for divorce and published a devastating exposé of life inside the compound, In the Shadow of the Moons. In 1998, she and a Moon daughter, Un Jin — who claimed her husband had abused her, too — went on “60 Minutes” and unleashed a flurry of allegations about sex, drugs, and violence inside Moon’s ideal family. Moon was still reeling from this bombshell when, the following year, his second-youngest son, Phillip, who was also trapped in an unhappy arranged marriage, hurled himself from the seventeenth floor of a Harrah’s casino in Nevada and died.

“The family turmoil made a mockery of Moon’s teachings. Moon had already lost some of his political leverage during the early ’90s, as communism crumbled and Democrats seized control of Congress and the White House. Now, many disillusioned followers began turning their backs on the church. Moon, who believed that America’s culture of “moral degradation” had caused his children’s downfall, grew bitter toward his adopted country, which he branded “Satan’s harvest.”“

Around 2004, according to a half-dozen sources close to the family,” In Jin “started an affair with a keyboard player and longtime Unificationist named Alistair Farrant. Soon, Farrant abandoned his wife and children and began camping out at In Jin’s place. James Park was crushed. “He felt really displaced,” says one member of his inner circle. “He felt like he had lost his family and everything that gave him meaning.” Park started binging on cocaine and Paradigm, his company, suffered. According to people with inside knowledge, one of Park’s business partners began angling for control of the company, and Park began hunting for a buyer friendly to his interests. As luck would have it, he found one in an unlikely quarter: then-Senator Joseph Biden’s family

Rev. Moon in America

Moon first visited in the United States in1965. Mariah Blake wrote in the New Republic, he “shuffled off a plane at San Francisco International Airport, carrying a suitcase of Korean soil. His disciples later drove him to the hills overlooking the city. As a strong wind blew, the wiry 44-year-old buried a clump of the soil, and declared the spot holy ground — “a place where you can come to pray and not be bothered by Satan.” He spent the next month touring the continental United States in a blue Plymouth Fury station wagon. All told, he and his followers staked out 55 plots of holy ground, including one on the Ellipse in front of the White House. [Source: Mariah Blake, New Republic, November 13, 2013

In 1971 he returned with a handful of followers, mostly from South Korea and Japan. He became a a resident of the United States and spent most his time at Belvedere, his big estate in Tarrytown, New York, but used a private jet to travel to his estates in Alaska, Seoul and Puta de; Easte, Uruguay as well as the Unification Church’s utopian community, New Hope, in a grassland-jungle area of Brazil.

The True Family lived in mainly in two lavish Westchester County New York estates — East Garden, an 18-acre compound in Irvington, and Belvedere — with a shooting range for one son, a US$10 million riding facility for one daughter, a bowling alley, and a solarium. The New Yorker described the house that Moon lived at East Garden in as “an immense, attractively-designed bunker.” It cost US$10 million. Among other things it contains a dining room table surrounded by ponds filled with carp, with a nearby waterfall. The estate also had ballroom and a kitchen with six pizza ovens. For a while he lived in a 30-room mansion in New Jersey.

Daniel J. Wakin wrote in the New York Times: In 1972, Moon “settled in the United States, seeing it as the promised land for church growth. “I came to America primarily to declare the New Age and new truth,” he is quoted as saying in the book “Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church.” He took an interest in politics, urging that President Richard M. Nixon be forgiven for his role in the Watergate crisis. Church leaders plotted a strategy to defend the president and held rallies in support of Nixon that drew thousands to Yankee Stadium, Madison Square Garden and the National Mall. [Source: Daniel J. Wakin, New York Times, September 2, 2012 /]

Mariah Blake wrote in the New Republic: At the height of the Watergate scandal, Moon and his followers organized “God Loves Richard Nixon” rallies on Capitol Hill and bought full-page pro-Nixon newspaper ads all over the country. Moon also assigned pretty young devotees to cozy up to lawmakers, with the goal of planting three in every senator’s office. The women managed to insinuate themselves into several offices — including then–Speaker of the House Carl Albert’s — where they lobbied and collected information. [Source: Mariah Blake, New Republic, November 13, 2013]

Wakin wrote: “Mr. Moon’s interests expanded into film when a church-linked company backed the 1982 movie “Inchon,” a US$42 million Korean War epic notable for bad reviews and the casting of Laurence Olivier as Gen. Douglas MacArthur. As his church’s fortunes declined in the United States, Mr. Moon revised his pro-American views. In a 1997 speech, he said America had “persecuted” him. He also attacked homosexuals and American women.” /\

Unification Church Financial Empire

Tong Il group is a collection of Unification-related companies that at one time was ranked as is South Korea's 28th largest chaebol (business conglomerate) Clifford Coonan wrote in The Independent: “Tongil, which means unification in Korean, operates just like the other chaebol, such as the industrial groups Hyundai or Samsung. The church's global interests include everything from fishing to ranching to the manufacture of arms and the operation of North Korea's only motor-vehicle plant, which assembles small sedans with parts made by Fiat. The church also owns newspapers, including the Washington Times and daily titles in Japan and Korea. [Source: Clifford Coonan. The Independent, October 15, 2009]

The Unification Church is said to have had assets worth several billion dollars. Its land holdings in Korea alone are worth more than US$1 billion. Tong Il's most profitable enterprises were reportedly businesses in Japan that sold ginseng products and religious items such as miniature stone pagodas. Moon coupled the church's fortunes to economic expansion. Factories in South Korea and abroad manufacture arms and process ginseng and seafood, artistic bric-a-brac, and other items. Moon's labor force has worked long hours and been paid minimal wages in order to channel profits into church coffers.

Unification Church holdings include or included News World Communications (the parent company of the Washington Times newspaper); a Japanese computer firm; a titanium mine; huge tracts of land in South America; a gun company; a car plant in China; a weapons factory; huge land tracts in South America; a smart hotel in New York; a symphony orchestra; Alaskan seafood processing enterprises; Korean ginseng farms; countless restaurants and jewellery businesses; Yongpyong ski resort in South Korea.; a 50-state seafood operation; the Potonggang Hotel in Pyongyang; join operation of the Pyeonghwa Motors automaker in North Korea; Bridgeport University; a horse farm in Texas; a cable television channel; a Latin American daily newspaper; a video and film production company (purchased from the Mormon church); a ballet company; an architectural molding company; and a golf course in California.

Daniel J. Wakin wrote in the New York Times: “Mr. Moon’s business ventures in South Korea at one time or another included construction, hospitals, schools, ski resorts, newspapers, auto parts, pharmaceuticals, beverages and a professional soccer team. He also had commercial interests in Japan, where right-wing nationalist donors were said to be one source of financing. In the United States, Mr. Moon had interests in commercial fishing, jewelry, fur products, construction and real estate. He bought many properties in the New York area, including the New Yorker Hotel in Midtown Manhattan and the Manhattan Center nearby. The extent of his holdings was somewhat of a mystery, but one figure gives a clue: Mr. Moon acknowledged that in the two decades since the founding of The Washington Times in 1982, he pumped in more than US$1 billion in subsidies to keep it going. [Source: Daniel J. Wakin, New York Times, September 2, 2012]

Where Did the Money Come from? Daniel J. Wakin wrote in the New York Times: The church said its various operations earned tens of millions of dollars a year worldwide. In their book “Cults and New Religions” (2006), Mr. Bromley and Douglas E. Cowan wrote that according to church doctrine, a member “recognizes Moon’s messianic status, agrees to contribute to the payment of personal indemnity for human sinfulness, and looks forward to receiving the marital Blessing and building a restored world of sinless families.” Christopher Reed wrote in The Guardian, The ultimate source still defies scrutiny, although he was at one time backed by two Japanese billionaires, both self-admitted fascists, and there were rumours of financing by the Korean CIA. [Source: Daniel J. Wakin, New York Times, September 2, 2012; Christopher Reed, The Guardian, September 2, 2012]

Rev. Moon and Politics

Daniel J. Wakin wrote in the New York Times: “An ardent anti-Communist who had been imprisoned by the Communist authorities in northern Korea in the 1940s, he saw the United States as the world’s salvation. But in the late 1990s, after financial losses, defections and stagnant growth in the church’s membership, he turned on America, branding it a repository of immorality — “Satan’s harvest” — and repositioned his movement as a crusade for moral values. [Source: Daniel J. Wakin, New York Times, September 2, 2012]

Christopher Reed wrote in The Guardian: “Considering Moon's documented history of extreme rightwing theocratic politics, antisemitism, constant rumours of sexual improprieties, his US imprisonment in 1982 for tax evasion, and, for Christians, an offensively blasphemous theology, it is difficult to understand how he was tolerated, even welcomed, by US presidents, politicians, clergymen and academics in America, Japan and Britain.

“Moon moved to America in 1972 and his rightwing views soon brought entry to Republican circles. He was feted at huge rallies, met Richard Nixon and, during the Watergate scandal, fasted on the Capitol steps for three days while imploring God not to let Nixon be impeached (he wasn't). But Moon's business practices had aroused suspicions and in 1978, after the Koreagate bribery scandal, the congressional subcommittee on international organisations issued a damning report on the Moon church, which it described as "a multinational corporation … a paramilitary organisation … and a tightly disciplined international political party". It added: "Among [its] goals is establishment of a worldwide government in which the separation of church and state would be abolished, and which would be governed by Moon and his followers." The committee's recommendation of further investigation of illegalities was dropped when Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980.

“Moon prospered under Reaganism. At this time he was backed by two Japanese tycoons that the U.S. occupation had formerly imprisoned as war criminals. One was Yoshio Kodama, a yakuza (Japanese gangster) boss and organiser of fascist secret societies. Kodama made millions looting Manchuria in the war, and died in 1984 while awaiting trial in the Japanese Lockheed bribery scandal. The other was Ryoichi Sasakawa, who also made millions in the war and died in 1995. In the 1970s, when he controlled the US$14bn Japanese motorboat racing business, Sasakawa described himself as "the world's richest fascist".

“After Moon's release from a US prison after serving 13 months he was still welcomed by the great and good. At various times he met or received support from the British prime ministers Margaret Thatcher and Edward Heath, ex-presidents Gerald Ford and George Bush Sr, Canadian ex-premier Brian Mulroney, US senators Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms, William Fulbright and Orrin Hatch, Reagan's defence secretary Caspar Weinberger, the former Nato chief general Alexander Haig, former US education secretary William Bennett, Boston University president John Silber, Christian Coalition ex-chief Ralph Reed, and the rightwing Christian leader the Rev Jerry Falwell.

“These connections survived Moon's increasingly embarrassing activities – his sermons dwelling on the "sexual organs", his description of American women as descended from prostitutes, family scandals, Rabbinic court condemnation for antisemitism and a vow to "conquer and subjugate the world". When George W Bush became president in 2001 and proposed subsidising church charities, Moon renewed his interest in America and sponsored, through one of his front organisations, a Republican campaign to foster the idea. Uncle Sam's embrace of the crooked cleric continued.”

And despite his close connections with American Republicans he also had close ties with North Korea.Clark wrote in “Culture and Customs of Korea”: “Like many North Korean refugees dreams of going back someday to the place of his birth. However, given the hostility of Korean Communism to all religion, he was unable to do so until the 1980s when North Korean president Kim Il-sung welcomed him as a possible ally in the campaign to unite the two parts of the country. [Source: “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Greenwood Press, 2000]

Rev. Moon Scandals

Daniel J. Wakin wrote in the New York Times: “Mr. Moon struggled against bad publicity. He was sent to prison on tax evasion charges and accused of influence-buying and of maintaining ties to the Korean Central Intelligence Agency. He denied both allegations. In the late 1970s he was caught up in a Congressional investigation into attempts by South Korea to influence American policy. There were battles with local officials over zoning for church buildings and tax-exempt status. [Source: Daniel J. Wakin, New York Times, September 2, 2012]

“As his church grew more prominent in the 1970s and ’80s, it became embroiled in lawsuits over soliciting funds, acquiring property and recruiting followers. Defectors wrote damaging books. From 1973 to 1986 at least 400 of the church’s flock were abducted by their family members to undergo “deprogramming,” according to an estimate by David G. Bromley, a professor of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University and an expert on Mr. Moon. The church denied that it had brainwashed its followers, saying members joined and stayed of their own free will.” The father of one former member wrote in the Daily Mail that Moon’s followers were “mindless” fund-raising “robots” who had no ideals except “the half-baked ravings of Moon, who lived in splendor while his followers lived in forced penury.”

Mr. Moon said he was the victim of religious oppression and ethnic bias because of his Korean heritage. Established churches were angered, he said, because they felt threatened by his movement. “I don’t blame those people who call us heretics,” he was quoted as saying in “Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church” (1977), a sympathetic account by Frederick Sontag. “We are indeed heretics in their eyes because the concept of our way of life is revolutionary: We are going to liberate God.”

“In the late 1970s, Mr. Moon came under the scrutiny of federal authorities, mainly over allegations that he was involved in efforts by the South Korean government to bribe members of Congress to support President Park Chung-hee. A Congressional subcommittee said there was evidence of ties between Mr. Moon and Korean intelligence, and that the church had raised money and moved it across borders in violation of immigration and local charity laws. Then, in October 1981, Mr. Moon was named in a 12-count federal indictment. He was accused of failing to report US$150,000 in income from 1973 to 1975, a sum consisting of interest from US$1.6 million that he had deposited in New York bank accounts in his own name, according to the indictment. “I would not be standing here today if my skin were white and my religion were Presbyterian,” Mr. Moon said after the charges were announced. “I am here today only because my skin is yellow and my religion is Unification Church.” He called the case a government conspiracy to force him out of the country. Mr. Moon was convicted the next year of tax fraud and conspiracy to obstruct justice and sentenced to 18 months in prison. He was assigned to kitchen duty.

Moon Family Tragedies and a Helicopter Crash

Daniel J. Wakin wrote in the New York Times: Personal setbacks marked Mr. Moon’s later years. In 1984, a son, Heung Jin, died at 17 from injuries sustained in a car crash. Another son, Young Jin Moon, who was 21, committed suicide in 1999 by jumping from a 17th-story balcony at Harrah’s hotel in Reno, Nevada.” Two other sons reportedly also died early, one in a train wreck and another in a car accident. [Source: Daniel J. Wakin, New York Times, September 2, 2012]

“In 1995 Nansook Hong, the wife of his eldest son, Hyo Jin Moon, who at one time was Mr. Moon’s heir apparent, broke from the family and wrote a book characterizing her husband as a womanizing cocaine user who watched pornographic movies and beat her, once when she was seven months pregnant. Ms. Hong portrayed the entire Moon family as dysfunctional, spoiled and divided by intrigue and hypocrisy. (She also wrote that the church believed that the spirit of Heung Jin had returned for a time in the body of a Zimbabwean man who traveled the world and, with Mr. Moon’s sanction, beat straying church members.)”

In July 2008, Rev. Moon was injured in a helicopter crash. Associated Press reported: “A helicopter carrying the Rev. Sun Myung Moon crashed into a mountain in South Korea, injuring the founder of the Unification Church and 13 others, officials said. Moon was slightly injured but his exact condition was not known, fire official Kim Wu-jong told The Associated Press. Members of Moon's family, including his wife, were also hurt. One person was seriously injured, Kim said. The helicopter was carrying 16 people when it crashed in Gapyeong, about 37 miles northeast of Seoul, Kim said. It burst into flames after hitting the ground. Police and fire officials said the cause of the crash was under investigation. Church official Kim Dae-yeol said the helicopter was flying to a church-affiliated hospital in the area. [Source: Associated Press, July 19, 2008]

Moon’s Weird Later Years

By the late 1980s, Moon’s influence had declined and the Unification Church was having a hard time overcoming suspicions by the authorities because of its scandals and Moon's efforts to create a "state within a state." As court cases built up, the church abandoned it heavy-handed recruitment methods and the number of members dropped. Daniel J. Wakin wrote in the New York Times: “Mr. Moon and his church largely dropped from public view in the late ’90s and 2000s, but once in a while they attracted attention. In 2001, a Roman Catholic archbishop from Zambia, Emmanuel Milingo, married a Korean woman in a multiple wedding performed by Mr. Moon. The archbishop then renounced the union. [Source: Daniel J. Wakin, New York Times, September 2, 2012]

“One of the more bizarre moments in Mr. Moon’s later years came on March 23, 2004, at what was described as a peace awards banquet, held at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington. Members of Congress were among the guests. At one point Representative Danny K. Davis, an Illinois Democrat, wearing white gloves, carried in on a pillow one of two gold crowns that were placed on Mr. Moon and his wife. Some of the members of Congress said they had no idea that Mr. Moon was to be involved in the banquet, though it was hosted by the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace, a foundation affiliated with the Unification Church.

“At the banquet, Mr. Moon said emperors, kings and presidents had “declared to all heaven and earth that Reverend Sun Myung Moon is none other than humanity’s savior, messiah, returning lord and true parent.” He added that the founders of the world’s great religions, along with figures like Marx, Lenin, Hitler and Stalin, had “found strength in my teachings, mended their ways and been reborn as new persons.”

AlterNet reported: “The Rev. Moon, who was decked out in a campy floor-length cape, was presented with an ornate gold crown and a lifetime achievement award. Introduced by a shofar-blowing rabbi, the Rev. told the star-studded audience – made up of congressional members and a number of religious leaders – that a "new era" had come: "Open your hearts and receive the secrets that Heaven is disclosing in this age through me." [Source: Bill Berkowitz, AlterNet, May 11, 2004]

As Moon approached 90,three of his sons and a daughter began assuming more responsibility for running the church and his holdings. Moon's youngest son, the Rev Hyung-jin Moon, was named the church's top religious director in April 2008. Moon died at the age of 92 in September 2012 in Gapyeong, South Korea. His church’s website he died from pneumonia, while battling kidney failure.

Moon’s final send off was like a state funeral. Moon's carved, red-lacquer coffin was carried by men in military-style uniforms into a stadium, filled with 30,000 followers, at the church headquarters in Gapyeong, 60 kilometers (35 miles) east of Seoul. AFP reported: The vast, covered arena, dominated by an altar where a giant portrait of Moon stood on a landscaped bank of floral tributes, was packed to capacity with church members — thousands of whom had flown in from overseas. Many sobbed quietly as the honor guard, accompanied by members of Moon's immediate family, moved through the stadium and placed the coffin at the foot of the portrait. Over the past 10 days, more than 150,000 mourners had paid their last respects at Moon's portrait before his burial on a hillside overlooking the sprawling Gapyeong complex.

Moon Family Feud over Church Assets

Mariah Blake wrote in the New Republic: After the helicopter crash in 2008, Moon’s “children began squabbling over the only major piece of Moon’s empire that remained up for grabs: the Unification Church of America, which oversees the movement’s U.S. congregations, along with hundreds of millions of dollars in assets. Preston saw himself as the natural heir. But In Jin also spotted an opportunity. Her family hadn’t fully recovered from the Paradigm debacle, and, according to people close to her, she was hungry for additional income. When Justin approached her about staging a takeover, she agreed. [Source: Mariah Blake, New Republic, November 13, 2013]

“While Preston was out of the country, Sean, who headed the international church, issued a memo saying that In Jin was to be “chairperson of the Unification Movement in America.” The American church then convened a board meeting, led by In Jin. Most of the existing board members were pressured to resign and were replaced with In Jin’s allies, after which In Jin was formally elected chair. A bitter family feud ensued. Preston later staged his own boardroom coup at Unification Church International, the holding company for the Moon family’s U.S. business, giving him unfettered control over billions of dollars in assets. He used the proceeds to fund an offshoot movement that drew on his father’s teachings without deifying the Moon clan.

“In Jin, meanwhile, assumed the role of chief pastor of the American church and began using it as a vehicle for her own passions. She launched the band Sonic Cult, with Lorentzen as the lead singer. She also pushed back against the traditions that had confined her in an unhappy marriage — openly condoning divorce and encouraging younger members to marry for love. Meanwhile, the family feud erupted into open view, as the siblings sparred over billions of dollars in assets in court. And one of In Jin’s deputies traveled the country delivering a PowerPoint presentation that cast Preston as a “fallen” Adam who was “being controlled by Satan.” This was the state of play in early 2012, when In Jin disappeared.

“After Moon died “a birth certificate for a four-month-old boy began circulating on the Internet. To the astonishment of Moon’s followers, the child’s parents were none other than In Jin Moon and Ben Lorentzen. The baby probably would have come to light sooner had James Park not worked to cover up his existence; according to people close to the family, James helped In Jin rent a house in Cape Cod where she and Ben could lay low during her pregnancy. Now, on top of mourning their messiah, Moon’s American disciples had to digest the news that his supposedly sinless daughter was trampling his most sacred teachings. “The core of our faith is purity before marriage and fidelity between husband and wife,” longtime church member Mary Anglin told me. “We’ve devoted our lives to this vision. Then In Jin turned around and slapped us all in the face.”“

Moon’s Wife Takes Over

Mariah Blake wrote in the New Republic: “But by the time In Jin’s love child came to light, Mrs. Moon’s husband and master was dead and she was free to handle the situation as she saw fit. She demanded that In Jin resign. In Jin later issued an apology to members of the church. “It was never our intention to hurt anyone,” she wrote. “All we wanted was to love and to be loved.” [Source: Mariah Blake, New Republic, November 13, 2013]

“Next, Mrs. Moon moved to claim the inheritance her husband had promised. She wrested control of the international church from Sean and issued a memo saying, “[E]verything that is carried out in Korea from this day onward will be centered on True Mother.” She later ousted Justin, who controlled most of Moon’s Korean enterprises. After five decades spent in Moon’s shadow, the kingdom was in her hands.

“And despite Moon’s views on wifely subservience, it soon became clear that Mrs. Moon did not share all of her husband’s opinions. She began speaking out in surprisingly critical terms about Moon’s preoccupation with America. During a trip to New York” in late 2012, she complained that he had squandered 40 years in the United States for “such little” return. Many members suspect that she will soon turn her back on his beleaguered American project entirely. “Reverend Moon really cared about America,” says Richard Barlow, a former Unificationist missionary, who maintains contact with elements of the church leadership. “But his wife doesn’t feel that strong connection, and she’s ousted her children who do.”

“In late February, the matriarch celebrated the arrival of Cheon Il Guk — Moon’s global kingdom of peace and unity — before some 15,000 devotees who packed into the Moon-owned stadium in Korea, wearing identical wedding garb. The crowd sang the Cheon Il Guk national anthem, and then Mrs. Moon, the former cook’s daughter, swept into the stadium wearing a jeweled crown and a purple robe festooned with gold embroidery. She marched slowly up a long stairway to a giant replica of the Moon family palace and took a seat on a white throne. Next to her was an identical throne, reserved for her dead husband. An attendant handed her a “heavenly scepter,” and she climbed to her feet: “I proclaim the first year of Cheon Il Guk.” Trumpets blared, and the stadium filled with mist.”

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons.

Text Sources: South Korean government websites, Korea Tourism Organization, Cultural Heritage Administration, Republic of Korea, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Library of Congress, CIA World Factbook, World Bank, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Chunghee Sarah Soh in “Countries and Their Cultures”, “Columbia Encyclopedia”, Korea Times, Korea Herald, The Hankyoreh, JoongAng Daily, Radio Free Asia, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, BBC, AFP, The Atlantic, The Guardian, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2021

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