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. Sun Myung 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).


Reverend Sun Myung Moon

The Rev. Sun Myung Moon (1920-2012) was the leader of the Unification Church. He 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]

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]

Growth of the Unification Church in the 1970s

During the 1970s in the United States, Moon recruited large numbers of young people and sent them to camps where they learned — some say indoctrinated — about the Unification philosophy and ideal. Many of these recruits appeared at airports and on American street corners selling flowers and turning the proceeds over to the Moon organization, which grew quite rich. By the mid 1970s, Moon had built a huge multimillion dollar religious and business empire. In 1982 he served a year in a federal penitentiary in Danbury Connecticut after being convicted of tax evasion. [Source: “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Greenwood Press, 2000]

Mariah Blake wrote in the New Republic: Moon “began aggressively recruiting new followers, who were expected to live in monk-like purity. Alcohol and drugs were off-limits, and sex outside marriage was the worst possible sin, punishable by eternal hellfire. His religion appealed to young people who liked the communal ethos of the counterculture, but not the drugs and free love. His growing army of heavenly soldiers raised money by hawking flowers and candles in airports and on street corners. Funds also poured in from Japan (the “Eve nation”), where young devotees persuaded elderly Japanese widows to liberate their ancestors from hell by purchasing grossly overpriced trinkets. By 1974, the U.S. church was raking in US$8 million a year. [Source: Mariah Blake, New Republic, November 13, 2013]

During its period of rigorous expansion during the 1970s, the Unification Church had several hundred thousand members in South Korea and Japan and a substantial (although generally overestimated) number of members in North America and Western Europe. Moon claimed that he was the "messiah" designated by God to unify all the peoples of the world into one "family," governed theocratically by himself. The Unification Church was highly authoritarian, demanding absolute obedience from church members. Moon, for example, has arranged marriages for his younger followers; United States television audiences were treated some years ago to a mass ceremony at which several hundred young "Moonies" were married. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada and William Shaw, Library of Congress, 1990]

Daniel J. Wakin wrote in the New York Times: “From early on Mr. Moon was revered by his followers as the messiah, and in 1992 he conferred that title on himself. He also declared that he and his second wife, Hak Ja Han, were the “true parents of all humanity.”: He began organizing the Unification Church “on a large scale in the United States in the early 1970s. [Source: Daniel J. Wakin, New York Times, September 2, 2012]

“Mr. Moon was a leading figure in what Eileen V. Barker, a professor emeritus of sociology at the London School of Economics, called “the great wave of new religious movements and alternative religiosity in the 1960s and 1970s in the West,” a time when the Hare Krishna and Transcendental Meditation movements were also gathering force. Mr. Moon, said Professor Barker, an expert on new religious movements, was “very important in those days — as far as the general culture was concerned — in the fear of cults and sects.”In its early years in the United States, the Unification Church was widely viewed as little more than a cult, one whose polite, well-scrubbed members, known derisively as Moonies, sold flowers and trinkets on street corners and married in mass weddings. In one of the last such events, in 2009, 10,000 couples exchanged or renewed vows before Mr. Moon at Sun Moon University near Seoul.

Unification Church Beliefs

The Rev, Moon was known to his followers as Father. His wife was known as Mother. Followers called each other brother and sister. The foundation of the Unification Church belief is that Eve was seduced by Satan in the Garden of Eden and had sex before marriage with Adam, thus passing Evil onto her children and all their descendants. Jesus came to rid the world of this evil but was crucified before he could complete his task by getting married and filling the world with pure children. Moon believed it was his job to finish Jesus’s task.

Donald N. Clark wrote in “Culture and Customs of Korea”: “The term "unification" in Korean is the same word that is used for national reunification, giving the name of the church a special meaning for Koreans that it lacks in English. "Unification" has become an almost mystic goal in the Korean mind, something like a perfect future world. In the religious context it is faintly suggestive of the Buddhist Nirvana or the Christian Heaven. The wholeness that is such an important part of Reverend Moon's message is expressed by glorifying marriage, particularly the holy marriage between himself as the holy father, and his wife as the holy mother.” [Source: “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Greenwood Press, 2000]

Most people are familiar with Moonie mass wedding. “The Unification Church organizes these mass weddings as part of their celebration of wholeness in marriage. The Unification Church projects this ideal of wholeness onto the world, envisioning a great unifying trend among the world's peoples and religions under the guidance of Reverend Moon. This is not a new idea in East Asia. Confucius himself once envisioned the world's history in phases leading to an ultimate peace of great unity or Datong ("Taedong" in Korean) when peace and unity would reign everywhere. This idea came back in the late nineteenth century when the scholar Kang Youwei proposed a unification of Eastern and Western cultures in much the same vision of the future. In the twentieth century unity has been further from reality than ever, and perhaps that is why so many people in different countries have been attracted to Reverend Moon's teachings.

The Divine Principle or Exposition of the Divine Principle is the main theological textbook of the Unification Church. Co-written by Rev. Moon and early disciple Hyo Won Eu and first published in 1966, the book lays out the core of Unification theology, and is viewed by believers as the church’s Holy Scripture. It describes 1) God's purpose in creating human beings; 2) the fall of man; and 3) restoration – the process through history by which God is working to remove the ill effects of the fall and restore humanity back to the relationship and position that God originally intended. God is viewed as the creator, whose nature combines both masculinity and femininity, and is the source of all truth, beauty, and goodness. Human beings and the universe reflect God's personality, nature, and purpose. "Give-and-take action" (reciprocal interaction) and "subject and object position" (initiator and responder) are "key interpretive concepts", and the self is designed to be God's object.The purpose of human existence is to return joy to God. [110] The "four-position foundation" is "another important and interpretive concept", and explains in part the emphasis on the family.

Peter Manseau wrote in the Washington Post: “For the most part, Unificationist leaders shy away from the notion that they have a stake in changing other religions. “Moon's teachings raise the oft-repeated ideal of "traditional family values" to a cosmic and metaphysical level. The reason for the spectacle of stadium-size weddings is that for Unificationists, marriage is not, as in other faiths, one of many equally significant religious rituals. It is in fact their only sacrament. It is also the key to their theology, which motivates everything they do. "Unificationism is real simple," Schanker says, giving me a quick precis of the movement's teachings. "The institution created in the Garden of Eden was the family, not any religion. And that family became separated from God through their immature use of love. Through marriage, we can repair this separation." [Source: Peter Manseau, Washington Post, March 11, 2007]

Moon’s book “The Divine Principle” “positions him at the end of a chronology that begins in Eden and passes through Jerusalem on its way to Korea and the revelation of his birth and ministry. Adapting the biblical Genesis story, Moon teaches that Eve not only ate the forbidden fruit but also had sexual relations with Satan, then passed along this pollution to Adam. In the process, they became "evil parents," and their children, "evil children." This designation included all humanity until God told Moon how he could put an end to it: Moon himself would become "True Father" to reverse the mistakes of the "Evil Father," Adam; his wife would become "True Mother" to counter the "Evil Mother," Eve. Through the "True Parents'" marriage blessing, those trapped in "evil lineage" would be released to a "true lineage." As Unificationists see it, every couple blessed by Moon brings the world one st! ep closer to the establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, and moreover re-affirms his role as Father and King, second only to God. If, through Milingo, Moon could move what Schanker called "the world's most influential religion" one step closer to the Unificationist view of marriage, it certainly would be worth the price of a few conferences and Milingo's upkeep. As Schanker summed up Moon's intentions: "He's the messiah, right? His mind is 'I'm going to save the world.'"

Reverend Moon’s Sermon

Moon’s sermons began at 5:30am and often lasted for seven or eight hours. The longest was 16 hours and 40 minutes. Guards were posted at the church entrance. Those in attendance had to pass through metal detectors and are sometimes were subjected to searches and ID checks. Most of those in attendance were of Korean or Japanese ancestry. [Source: David Remick, New Yorker, September 14, 1998]

Describing a sermon, David Remick wrote in The New Yorker: “The worshippers shuffled aside, bowing their heads. Once the man and his wife were seated, everyone bowed again, this time dropping to their knees and touching their foreheads on the floor.” Moon “had come to a deliver a sermon...His topics included love, God, Satan,, money, Christianity, Adam and Eve, sin, the afterlife, kissing, adultery, adulation, America, redemption and numerology. Moon, who has the leathery complexion of a fisherman, occasionally spoke English but his accent is heavy and his grammar imperfect. Most of the time, he spoke Korean, and his remarks were translated.”

“As he moved lightly around the small stage, followed by an interpreter, Moon drew abstract diagrams on a chalkboard — circles and swirls and crosses and graphs, which had the appearance of mathematical formulas intertwined with football plays; occasionally he drew Communist characters. Several times, he held on to someone’s hair to make the point that even the thinnest strands can contain good and evil.”

“His sermon was punctuated with comic touches, including an interlude in which he chalked a line down his interpreter’s forehead, nose and lips, and own his shirt as far as his waist. I heard giggles.” In his later years Moon often ranted about evils of “free sex” — adultery, premarital sex and homosexuality. He called the penis a “love organ” and a vagina the “special hole” or a “holy hole” that should only be used in the context of doing God’s work. His other ideas included holding an Olympics in outer space and using krill (the shrimplike creatures whales feed on) to solve the world’s hunger problems and building a highway around the world. .

Moonie Rites and Symbols

The "Family Pledge" of the Unification Church is an eight-part promise of church members to focus on God and His kingdom. Eight verses of the Family Pledge include the phrase "by centering on true love." For the first 40 years of the church's existence, members recited the pledge on Sunday mornings at 5:00 a.m. Now they recite it every 8 days, on Ahn Shi Il: Day of Settlement and Attendance, which is the Unification Church's equivalent of a Sabbath. The first part says, "Our family, the owner of Cheon Il Guk, pledges to seek our original homeland and build the Kingdom of God on earth and in heaven, the original ideal of creation, by centering on true love." [Source: Wikipedia

Blessing ceremony is given to engaged or married couples, often as part of the Moone wedding. Through it, members of the Unification Church believe, the couple is removed from the lineage of sinful humanity and engrafted into God's sinless lineage. The Blessing ceremony was first held in 1961 for 36 couples in Seoul, South Korea by the Moons shortly after their own marriage in 1960. All the couples were members of the church. Rev. Moon matched all of the couples except 12 who were already married to each other before joining the church. Moon's practice of matching couples was very unusual in both Christian tradition and in modern Western culture and attracted much attention and controversy. Later Blessing ceremonies were larger in scale but followed the same pattern.

According to the current head of the church’s current incarnation, the Tongil ("Unity" or "Unification" in Korean) mark represents the flag of "Cheon Il Guk" — otherwise understood as the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. It is created with significant meaning and numbers: Its gold color symbolizes an ideal world of peace; the circle in the center represents God and his True Love, True Life and True Lineage; the twelve lines represent 12 months of the year and twelve types of human personalities; the square represents four directions, North, South East & West, and the four position foundation centered on God; and the circle around represents give and receive action between the visible and invisible worlds.

Story of a Moonie Cult Leader

Steven Hassan joined the Unification Church in the 1970s and was a member for about two and half years. He now works as a counsellor and has written books about cults and their techniques. He told The Guardian: “I consider myself to be an independent thinker. I was an advanced honours student. I had skipped eighth grade. I cycled across the U.S. when I was 16. I did not think I was vulnerable to being brainwashed by a cult. I was 19, and it was the beginning of the spring semester at college when three women, dressed like students, asked if they could sit at my table in the cafeteria. They were kind of flirting with me. I thought I was going to get a date. [Source: Interview by Emine Saner, The Guardian, September 3, 2012]

“At some point they said they were part of a student movement, trying to make the world a better place. I said, "Are you part of some sort of religious group?" They said no. They also didn't say they were celibate and that Reverend Moon was going to match people and tell them when they could have sex. If they had, I would have said: "You're crazy, leave me alone." I say this to highlight the point about deception: people don't knowingly join cults. Little did I know, within a few weeks I would be told to drop out of school, donate my bank account, look at Moon as my true parent, and believe my parents were Satan. I didn't even believe in Satan until I met the group.

“I hadn't heard of the Moonies and I didn't know about Moon himself until several weeks into my indoctrination. These new people picked me up on a Friday evening and drove me to a very expensive mansion, which turned out to be one of their headquarters. As we were driving through the gate, they said: "By the way we're having a joint workshop with the Unification Church." I said nobody had told me about a workshop, or a church. They did the classic mind control technique – they turned it around and made it my issue. "What's the matter?" they said. "Are you closed-minded?'

“I was put in a dormitory and couldn't sleep. I was planning to get out of there the next day, but morning came and I was told I had missed the van. They said I would regret it for the rest of my life if I didn't stay, and talked me into a 40-day separation, where I shouldn't communicate with my friends or family. Each evening we had to write feedback. At the end of the last day I remember writing: "I am too blown away to write anything now." My mind was exploding. At lectures, they had ―introduced the idea that all of human history was culminating, that God was sending the messiah and that the third world war was going to ―happen in the next three years. What did I want to do? Did I want to be part of this great and glorious thing, or did I want to be selfish and go back to my little life? Within three months I was a cult leader. I got very deeply involved, and I got to the point where I was being told to think about what country I wanted to run when we took over the world.

“I was with the Moonies for two-and-a-half years. I worked 21 hours a day, seven days a week – in prayer for between one and three hours. Then I would spend the rest of the day doing PR or lectures for the group, recruiting and fundraising. Everyone on my team was told they had to raise a minimum of US$100 a day, otherwise they wouldn't be allowed to sleep, and as a good leader, if they couldn't sleep, then I couldn't either. When I crashed a van into the back of a tractor trailer, I had gone three days without sleep. They gave me tapes of Moon's speeches to listen to in hospital when I was recovering from the crash, but you can only do that for so many hours in the day. Out of the controlled environment, I really missed my younger sister. I called her and told her I had been in an accident. She told the rest of my family

“They hired former members to do an intervention with me. It was a very difficult experience because I was programmed to fear Satan and anyone who criticised Moon. I thought it was a test of my faith and I was convinced I hadn't been brainwashed. My father started to weep at one point and said: "What would you do if it was your son who had dropped out of college, cut off contact?" I could feel he was was genuinely concerned about me, but it didn't mean I wanted to leave, or didn't think Moon was the Messiah. He asked me to listen to them for the next five days, and at the end if I still wanted to go back he would take me. I wanted to prove to them I wasn't brainwashed, but on the fifth day, as soon as I allowed the thought that Moon was a liar into my consciousness it was like a house of cards falling down. I was horrified.

“I didn't do anything for three months after the deprogramming. I just tried to work out who I was and what I believed. After three months, I realised I wanted to go public and expose it, which I have been doing ever since, writing books about how these groups work, and working as a therapist to protect people. Now Moon is gone, I'm ―concerned that the cult will start generating ―stories about how he walked on water and raised dead people. My fear is that for the sake of the ―franchise they will come ―together and promote Moon as a great being.”

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]

Unification Church Publications and Academic Endeavors

Virulently anticommunist, Moon sought to influence public opinion at home and abroad by establishing generally unprofitable newspapers such as the Segye Ilbo in Seoul, the Sekai Nippo in Tokyo, and the Washington Times in the United States capital, and by inviting academics to lavish international conferences, often held in South Korea. At various times he owned or controlled a cable TV network; the UPI press agency; a New York publishing house; and Insight magazine.

The Unification Church gave the University of Bridgeport US$110 million over more than a decade to keep the Connecticut school operating. Moon founded the Washington Times newspaper in 1982. Daniel J. Wakin wrote in the New York Times: Building a business empire in South Korea and Japan, Mr. Moon used his commercial interests to support nonprofit ventures, then kept control of them by placing key insiders within their hierarchies. He avidly backed right-wing causes, turning The Washington Times into a respected newspaper in conservative circles. [Source: Daniel J. Wakin, New York Times, September 2, 2012]

“Mr. Moon’s organizations established connections with African-American religious leaders, and he made forays into culture and education, establishing a ballet company in South Korea and financing a ballet school in Washington. In 1992 an organization with ties to Mr. Moon rescued the University of Bridgeport, in Connecticut, from bankruptcy, pouring in US$110 million in subsidies over a decade and taking effective control. Mr. Moon received an honorary degree.

The university’s administration denied that the church had influence, but critics of the arrangement contended that students were being lured into church training with the promise of scholarships, noted that the church had opened a boarding school on campus for members’ children, and said that the church had used the university to import money, in the form of tuition, as well as followers, in the form of the many foreign students who attended. Farther north along the Hudson River, the church founded the Unification Theological Seminary in Barrytown, N.Y. On its Web site, it sometimes is referred to as “U.T.S.: The Interfaith Seminary.”

At one time or another he controlled newspapers including Noticias del Mundo and The New York City Tribune; four publications in South Korea; a newspaper in Japan, The Sekai Nippo; The Middle East Times in Greece; Tiempos del Mundo in Argentina; and Últimas Noticias in Uruguay. In 2000, a church affiliate bought what was left of United Press International.

Unification Church Mass Weddings

The Unification Church was perhaps most famous for it mass weddings According to the Guinness Book of Records, the largest wedding ever held was a Unification Church mass wedding held on August 25, 1995. It involved 726,000 individuals (363,000 couples) that were married in ceremonies in 160 countries linked together via satellite. The largest gathering involved 72,000 people who were married at Chamsil Olympic Stadium in Seoul. In other ceremonies 396,000 people were married in Africa, 58,000 in Russia, 21,000 in Japan, 20,000 in elsewhere in Korea, 20,000 in the Middle East, 11,000 in Latin America, 10,000 in Taiwan, 9,000 in Europe and 8,000 in North America.

Describing the wedding in 2009, Associated Press reported: “Brides in white wedding gowns and Japanese kimonos joined grooms in black suits and red ties... Row after row of brides in veils and grooms in white gloves — hailing from South Korea, the U.S., Japan and Europe — joined married couples renewing their vows. Earlier, they posed for photos, sang and practiced shouting "Hurrah!" as the wedding rehearsal got underway. "I'm a little bit nervous," Rie Furuta, 25, admitted before the ceremony. She had her groom, Tadakuni Sano, both 25-year-olds from Japan, have met only three times since their marriage was arranged in March. Dressed in an austere black suit, Moon sprinkled holy water toward the couples, who then exchanged rings. After blessing them, he led the crowd of 20,000 in a loud cheer. White confetti floated into the air. [Source: Associated Press, October 13, 2009]

According to AFP: “The church’s mass weddings began in the early 1960s. At first, they involved just a few dozen couples but the numbers mushroomed over the years. Many were personally matched by Moon, who taught that romantic love led to sexual promiscuity, mismatched couples and dysfunctional societies. Moon’s preference for cross-cultural marriages also meant that couples often shared no common language. Those who choose to be matched by the church must confirm under oath that they are virgins, and after their wedding the couple must refrain from sexual relations for a minimum of 40 days. After Moon died the weddings continued under his widow Hak Ja Han, who was 72 in 2015. [Source: AFP, March 3, 2015]

Nearly 1,000 Filpina women "married" in a mass wedding to Korean men were barred from leaving the country because the Unification church did not present valid marriage licenses and other documents. The church threatened to sue to Philippines government for "moral harassment" and in response the Philippines government refused to allow the South Korean grooms to return to the Philippines.

Matching and Sex Under Moon’s Terms

Unificationists call the process of choosing marriage partners "matching." According to the Washington Post: This ritualized selection of marriage partners can take many forms. Originially, it involved crowds of men and women in a large room with Moon pairing them off.” In the 2000s “matches of young Unificationists” was done by parents with Moon himself still deciding some pairing himself.” How did all these pairings pan out? Some lasted; some didn’t. No statistics are available.

Daniel J. Wakin wrote in the New York Times: The weddings “were in keeping with a central tenet of his theology, a mix of Eastern philosophy, biblical teachings and what he called God’s revelations to him. In the church’s view, Jesus had failed in his mission to purify mankind because he was crucified before being able to marry and have children. Mr. Moon saw himself as completing the unfulfilled task of Jesus: to restore humankind to a state of perfection by producing sinless children, and by blessing couples who would produce them. [Source: Daniel J. Wakin, New York Times, September 2, 2012]

“Marriage was a key part of achieving salvation, and for a couple the marriage was as much a commitment to the church as it was to each other. In a ceremony involving 2,075 couples at Madison Square Garden in 1982, for example, the men wore identical blue suits and the women lace and satin gowns. Mr. Moon was said to have made the matches, based on questionnaires, photographs and the recommendations of church officials. Often the couples had met only weeks earlier or could speak to each other only through an interpreter. Many had to remain separated for several years, doing church work, before they were allowed to consummate the unions. In 2009, Moon married 45,000 people in simultaneous ceremonies worldwide in his first large-scale mass wedding in years.”

Mariah Blake wrote in the New Republic: Moon told his followers that they could join his sin-free bloodline by marrying a spouse of his choosing and engaging in a series of rituals. First, the newlyweds would beat each other with a bat, and then they would perform a three-day sex ceremony involving prescribed positions in front of Moon’s portrait. After the final sexual interlude — in missionary position — the bride would bow down to the groom, a confirmation that they had restored the “lost ideal of goodness.” [Source: Mariah Blake, New Republic, November 13, 2013]

Unification Church After Moon’s Death

At the time of Moon’s death, Hyung-Jin Kim of Associated Press wrote: “One expert said the church's business prospects appear brighter than its religious future. Tark Ji-il, a professor of religion at Busan Presbyterian University, described the church not as a religious organization but as a corporation made up of people with similar religious beliefs. The church won't give details about how much its businesses are worth, other than to describe them as part of a "multibillion-dollar" empire. Many new religious movements collapse after their founders die, but Tark said the Unification Church would likely survive. But its success as a religious entity will depend on how it smoothly it resolves any family feuds and how well Moon's offspring rise to fill their father's charismatic role, he said. [Source: Hyung-Jin Kim, Associated Press, September 3, 2012]

“Key to the church's religious future is the Rev. Hyung-jin Moon, the U.S.-born 33-year-old who was tapped to succeed his father several years ago to serve as head of the church. Known as "Sean" back at Harvard, where he studied, he is more fluent in English than Korean and has signs of his father's charisma but with an American sensibility. His sermons, delivered in English, are designed to appeal to the next generation of "Unificationists," the name followers prefer over the moniker "Moonies."

“He told the Associated Press in 2009 that he questioned Christianity when he was younger. But his father stood by him throughout the phase, and asked followers not to criticize him when he turned to Buddhism briefly after his brother's death in Nevada. An older brother, Kook-jin Moon, a 42-year-old also known as Justin, runs the Tongil Group, the church's business arm.”

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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