Sun Myung Moon
(born January 6 1920
) is the Korean
founder and leader of the world-wide Unification Church
and of the larger Unification Movement
which owns, operates or subsidizes many organizations involved in political, cultural, mass-media, and other activities. One of the best known of these is the Washington Times
Moon has said he is the Second Coming of Christ, the "Savior", "returning Lord", and "True Parent". He teaches that all people should become perfected like Jesus and like himself, and that as such he "appears in the world as the substantial body of God Himself." He is well-known for holding Blessing ceremonies, which are often called "mass weddings".
Moon has been among the most controversial modern religious leaders. He and his followers have been widely criticized, both for their religious beliefs and for their social and political activism.
Life in Korea
Moon was born on January 6, 1920 in Sangsa-ri (上思里, lit. "high-thought village"), Deogun-myon, Jeongju-gun, North P'yŏng'an Province, Korea (now in North Korea; Korea was then under military rule by Imperial Japan) to Moon Kyung-yoo and Kim Kyung-gye. The Moon family held traditional Confucianist beliefs, but converted to Christianity and joined the Presbyterian Church when he was around 10 years old. Moon taught Sunday school for the church.
On April 17 1935, when he was 16 (in Korean age reckoning), Moon says he had a vision or revelation of Jesus while praying atop a small mountain. He says that Jesus asked him to complete the unfinished task of establishing God's kingdom on Earth and bring peace to the world.
Moon's high school years were spent at a boys' boarding school in Seoul, and later in Japan, where he studied electrical engineering. During this time he studied the Bible and developed his own interpretation of it. After the end of World War II he returned to Korea and began preaching his message.
Moon was arrested in 1946 by North Korean officials. The church states that the charges stemmed from the jealousy and resentment of other church pastors after parishioners stopped tithing to their old churches upon joining Sun Myung Moon's congregation. Police beat him and left him almost dead, but a teenage disciple, Won Pil Kim, nursed him back to health.
Moon was arrested again and was given a five-year sentence in 1948 to the Hŭngnam labor camp, where prisoners were routinely worked to death on short rations. Moon credits his survival to God's protection over his life and his habit of saving half his meager water ration for washing the toxic chemicals off his skin after long days work bagging and loading chemical fertilizer with his bare hands. After serving 34 months of his sentence, he was released in 1950 when UN troops advanced on the camp and the guards fled.
Moon was jailed briefly on counterfeiting charges during the Korean War when, shortly after escaping from North Korea, he tried to spend some North Korean currency in South Korea. He was released after his former kindergarten teacher vouched for him. He was also charged with draft evasion. These charges were eventually dropped, after it was determined that Moon was in a North Korean prison camp during the war. Later he would explain to his followers that since he considered himself to be the True Parent of all people, he never wanted to be in a position where he would be required to kill his fellow men.
In 1954, he registered the 'Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity' in Seoul (also known as the Unification Church).
Marriages and children
In November 1943 Moon married Sun Kil Choi. Their son, Sung Jin Moon, was born in 1946. They divorced in 1953 soon after Moon's release from prison in North Korea. Choi and Sung Jin Moon are now both members of the Unification Church. Choi has remarried.
Moon was still legally married to his first wife when he began a relationship with his second (common law) wife Myung Hee Kim, who gave birth to a son named Hee Jin Moon (who was killed in a train accident). The church does not regard this as infidelity, because Sun Kil Choi had already left her husband by that time. Korean divorce law in the 1950s made legal divorce difficult and drawn out, so much so that when Myung Hee Kim became pregnant she was sent to Japan to avoid legal complications for Moon.
Moon married his third wife, Hak Ja Han, on April 11 1960, soon after she turned 17 years old, in a ceremony called the "Holy Marriage." Han, called "Mother" or "True Mother" by followers, and her husband together are referred to as the "True Parents" by members of the Unification Church.
Hak Ja Han gave birth to 14 children; her second daughter died in infancy. The family is known in the church as the "True Family" and the children as the "True Children." Shortly after their marriage they presided over a Blessing Ceremony for 36 couples, the first of many such ceremonies.
Nansook Hong, ex-wife of Hyo Jin Moon, Sun Myung Moon's eldest son, said in her 1998 book In the Shadow of the Moons: My Life in the Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Family, that both Sun Myung Moon and Hak Ja Han told her about Moon's extramarital affairs (which she said he called "providential affairs"), including one which resulted in the birth of a boy raised by a church leader, named by Sun Myung Moon's daughter Un Jin Moon on the news show 60 Minutes.
In 1993 Chung Hwa Pak released the book Roku Maria no Higeki (Tragedy of the Six Marys). The book contained allegations that Moon conducted sex rituals among six married female disciples ("The Six Marys") who were to have prepared the way for the virgin who would marry Moon and become the True Mother. Chung Hwa Pak had left the movement when the book was published and later withdrew the book from print when he rejoined the Unification Church. Before his death Chung Hwa Pak published a second book, The Apostate, and recanted all allegations made in Roku Maria no Higeki.
Name and titles
In 1953, Moon decided that his birth name, Mun Yong Myong was not a suitable name for an evangelist because Yong, which means dragon, might be interpreted by Christians as referring to the serpent, devil, or the antichrist of the Book of Revelation as opposed to the benevolent creature of Korean mythology. So, he changed his name to Son-myong (which he spelled "Sun Myung").
In the English-speaking world, Moon is often referred to as "Reverend Moon" by Unification Church members, as well as by the general public and the media. Unification Church members most often call Moon "Father" or "True Father." He is also sometimes called "Father Moon," mostly by some non-members involved with Unificationist projects. Similar titles are used for his wife: "Mother", "True Mother", or "Mother Moon". "Dr. Moon" has also occasionally been used because Moon received an honorary doctorate from the Shaw Divinity School of Shaw University.
Moon's main teachings are contained in the book Divine Principle
(retranslated in 1996 as Discourse on Divine Principle
). Arranged according to Systematic theology
, the book is divided into "Principle of Creation", "Fall of Man" and the "History of Restoration" (this third part makes up the bulk of the book).
The basic elements of Divine Principle were first written down in the early 1950s. The Divine Principle consists of Rev. Moon's interpretation of the Bible and Judeo-Christian history and reflect elements of Confucianism, which formed the background for Moon's early education.
One of the key concepts in the Divine Principle is found in Rev. Moon's interpretation of Genesis 1:28, "Be fruitful and multiply… and have dominion over the fish of the sea…" as constituting the "Three Blessings" that represent God's command to all human beings:
- *To grow to healthy maturity in body and spirit, where the body and spirit are integrated in mutual benefit and live in relation to the creator God, and for the sake of others;
- *To establish an ideal family and expand that to instantiate true family love to all levels of social expansion, again always in relation to the creator God; and
- *To maintain responsible stewardship of the earth and all of nature, and live a joyful and abundant physical life in preparation for an even more fantastic joy and abundance in eternal spiritual life.
Principle of Creation
Other fundamental ideas include the principle that everything in the universe, as a reflection of God's nature, has equal and complementary paired attributes; male and female (biology), positive and negative (particle physics), yin and yang (philosophy) and so on. Reciprocal interaction between these paired elements is essential to life, survival and growth. Also, everything in creation has an internal "character" and an external "form" or manifestation. In people the analogy is expressed as the spiritual mind and the physical body, and in simpler forms of life and non-life, simpler levels of character and form.
Fall and Restoration
Rev. Moon teaches that before the first human beings were able to grow into a natural completion of their relationship with God they sinned through a misuse of love. Thus they experienced separation from God and from their original, pure nature.
Thus the messiah comes as "true Adam" to restore what the first ancestors should have achieved, to restore all people to a sinless state and to build the kingdom of God on earth. Largely because of the failure of John the Baptist, Jesus accomplished only the first part of this spiritual salvation, so a new messiah must appear from Korea to finish the work.
A systematic philosophical presentation of Moon's ideas is contained in various books on "Unification Thought
Moon's teachings have political ramifications, primarily based on his idea that spiritual principles should be put into practice in the real world. He opposes atheistic Communism
, primarily on theological grounds. His stand on social issues is based on his interpretation of sin, and is similar to a very conservative Christian morality. He calls for the literal establishment of a kingdom of God on earth.
Move to the U.S.
In 1971 Moon moved to the United States
, which he had first visited in 1965, to live. He maintained a residence in South Korea
and traveled between the two countries.
Support for Nixon
In 1974 he came to national media and public attention when he supported President Richard Nixon
during the Watergate
scandal, urging Americans to "forgive, love, unite.
In the 1970s Moon, who had seldom spoken to the general public before, gave a series of public speeches to large audiences in the United States, Japan, and South Korea. The largest were a rally in 1975 against North Korean aggression in Seoul with around a million people attending and a speech in Washington D.C. with around 300,000 attending.
In 1977 and 1978, a congressional subcommittee led by Donald M. Fraser
conducted an investigation of Korean-American relations and produced a report that included 81 pages about Moon and what the subcommittee termed "the Moon Organization. Congressman Robert Boettcher
(in his book Gifts of Deceit: Sun Myung Moon, Tongsun Park, and the Korean Scandal
published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1980) reported what they described as breathtaking financial misdoing. No criminal indictments came out of these congressional investigations.
U.S. tax case
In 1982 Moon was convicted by the U.S.
government for filing false federal income tax
returns and conspiracy
. His conviction was upheld on appeal in a split decision. He was given a prison sentence and spent 18 months in the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury
, Connecticut. Many individuals, organizations and religious figures protested the charges, saying that they were unjust and threatened freedom of religion and free speech. Based on this case, reporter Carlton Sherwood
wrote the book Inquisition: The Persecution and Prosecution of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon
Support for Ronald Reagan
In 1980 Moon indirectly supported the campaign of Ronald Reagan
for United States President. He asked the church owned New York newspaper News World
to print a headline saying "Reagan Landslide" on the day of the election, before the outcome was known. This was said to influence the voting when it was shown on television being held up by Reagan.
Death and "return" of second son
The second son of Hak Ja Han and Moon, Heung-Jin Moon
, died on January 2 1984
from injuries suffered in a car crash in December 1983. Moon ascribed great importance to his death, and Heung-Jin Moon is officially regarded to be the "king of the spirits" in heaven, and is now said to be conducting seminars in heaven for departed souls. For several years church members "channeled
" his spirit, and in 1987-8 a Zimbabwean member who became known as "the Black Heung Jin Nim
" was accepted by Moon and his family as Heung Jin Moon's continuous channel, and toured the world giving speeches, getting confessions, and subjecting some members to beatings. Long-time member Damian Anderson reports seeing him "knock people's heads together, hit them viciously with a baseball bat, smack them around the head, punch them, and handcuff them with golden handcuffs"
and describes the "brute force applied to stop people leaving the event, or the building, and imprisoning protesters by force and with handcuffs in isolation.
Nansook Hong recounts: "No one outside the True Family was immune from the beatings.... Soon the mistresses he acquired were so numerous and the beatings he administered so severe that members began to complain. He beat Bo Hi Pak - a man in his sixties - so badly that he was hospitalized for a week in Georgetown Hospital. Washington Post staff writer Michael Isikoff reported that "Later, Pak underwent surgery in South Korea to repair a blood vessel in his skull, according to Times executives.
Founding The Washington Times
In Washington, Moon found common ground with strongly anti-Communist leaders of the 1980s, including President Ronald Reagan
. Using Unification Church funds in 1982, Moon, Bo Hi Pak
, and other church leaders founded The Washington Times
. By 1991, Moon said he spent about $1 billion on the paper (by 2002 roughly $1.7 billion), which he called "the instrument in spreading the truth about God to the world".
Opposition to the Soviet Union
In 1976, Moon told church members that one day he would organize "a great rally for God in the Soviet Capital." In 1980 Moon founded the anti-communist organization CAUSA International
. In August 1985 the Professors World Peace Academy
, an organization founded by Moon, sponsored a conference in Geneva
to debate the theme "The situation in the world after the fall of the communist empire." This topic was suggested by Moon. In August 1987 the Unification Church student association CARP
led 3,000 young demonstrators in Berlin
, who asked communist leaders to bring down the Berlin Wall
Visit to the Soviet Union
In April 1990 Moon visited the Soviet Union
and met with President Mikhail Gorbachev
. Moon expressed support for the political and economic transformations under way in the Soviet Union. At the same time the Unification Church was expanding into formerly communist
nations. Massimo Introvigne, who has studied the Unfication Church and other new religious movements
, has said that after the disestablishment of the Soviet Union in 1991, Moon has made anti-communism much less of a priority.
Relationship with former United States President George H. W. Bush
In the mid-1990s former United States President George H. W. Bush accepted millions of dollars from Moon's Women’s Federation for World Peace to speak on Moon's behalf around the world, a fact that Moon and the Unification Church have widely publicised, particularly in efforts to improve the image of the Unification Church outside the US. While discussing one of Bush's trips (a 1995 tour of Japan), Bo Hi Pak said:
- "Then George and Barbara Bush went to Fukuoka, the capital of Kyushu. The people of Kyushu were flabbergasted at Father and Mother's power to tell a U.S. president what to do and plan his schedule. Incredible. This completely changed the attitude of the Japanese government and media toward the Unification community."
In June 2006 the Houston Chronicle reported that in 2004 Moon’s Washington Times Foundation gave $1 million to the Greater Houston Community Foundation, which made donations to the George Bush Presidential Library.
Daughter-in-law's book questions role as "True Parent"
When the Moons' eldest son Hyo Jin Moon
was 19 years old, Sun Myung Moon picked a 15-year-old wife for him, Nansook Hong
, who bore him 5 children. In 1998 Hong published a book about her experiences in the Moon family, In the Shadow of the Moons: My Life in the Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Family
(ISBN 0-316-34816-3), which the New Yorker Magazine
called Moon's "most damaging scandal". The "tell-all memoir openly challenges Moon and his wife's role in church teachings as "True Parents
". According to Hong, and later confirmed by his public confessions and his own statements in a court deposition on November 15, 1996, Hyo Jin Moon had repeated problems with substance abuse, pornography, infidelity, violence and run-ins with the law. After years of alleged abuse Hong left the Moon estate with her children, subsequently publishing the book and appearing in several interviews, including 60 Minutes
. She told TIME Magazine
: "Rev. Moon has been proclaiming that he has established his ideal family, and fulfilled his mission, and when I pinpointed that his family is just as dysfunctional as any other family - or more than most - then I think his theology falls apart."
For some Unification Church members, this book was a revealing portrait of the way Sun Myung Moon and his wife had raised their children, and caused a great deal of soul-searching. (See, for example, this review of the book
, written by a church member.)
On October 27 1999
the Moons' sixth son, Young Jin, fell to his death from the 17th floor of a Reno, Nevada, hotel. Police reports and the coroner officially recorded the death as a suicide. Moon has said that he does not believe it was a suicide.
In 2000 Moon joined Nation of Islam
leader Louis Farrakhan
in sponsoring the Million Family March
in Washington D.C.
, a follow-up event to the Million Man March
held in 1995.
In January 2001 Moon sponsored newly elected president George W. Bush's Inaugural Prayer Luncheon for Unity and Renewal.
In 2001 the now excommunicated Roman Catholic Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo was married to Maria Sung, a Korean acupuncturist, by Moon. This attracted worldwide media attention.
In February 2003, Moon and Han reaffirmed their wedding vows after 43 years of marriage in a ceremony named the 'Holy Marriage Blessing Ceremony of the Parents of Heaven and Earth.'
Campaign to replace the Cross with a Crown
In 2003 Moon began his "tear down, or "take down the cross campaign. The campaign was begun in the belief that the cross is a reminder of Jesus' pain and has been a source of division between people of different faiths. The campaign included a burial ceremony for the cross and a crown to be put in its place. The American Clergy Leadership Conference (ACLC), an interfaith group founded by Moon, spearheaded the effort, calling the cross a symbol of oppression and perceived superiority.
Unification Church member and theologian Andrew Wilson said, "The crucifixion was not something that God loves, but something that God hates. It hurts every time he sees people glorifying the cross, which was the instrument of execution used to kill his beloved son.
Michael Schwartz, a spokesperson for the Christian advocacy organization Concerned Women for America, responded: "Just imagine if some misguided Christian were to suggest that the Jews have to take away their symbol and the Muslims would have to take away their symbol, not display it in public any longer. That would be identified instantly as a statement of intolerance. Reconciliation and peace do not grow out of intolerance."
Coronation by Members of United States Congress
In 2004, at a March 23 ceremony in the Dirksen Senate Office Building
, U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis
(D-Ill.) wore white gloves and carried a pillow holding an ornate crown that was placed on Moon's head.
Moon delivered a long speech in which he stated that he was "sent to Earth . . . to save the world's six billion people. . . . Emperors, kings and presidents . . . have declared to all Heaven and Earth that Reverend Sun Myung Moon is none other than humanity's Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent.
120-city world speaking tour
On September 12 2005
, at the age of 85, Moon inaugurated the Universal Peace Federation
with a 120-city world speaking tour. At each city, Moon delivered his speech titled "God's Ideal Family - the Model for World Peace".
In April 2008, Moon (then 88 years old) appointed his youngest son Hyung Jin Moon
to be the new leader of the Unification Church and the world-wide Unification Movement, saying, "I hope everyone helps him so that he may fulfill his duty as the successor of the True Parents."
On July 19
, 2008, Moon, his wife, and 14 others were slightly injured when their Sikorsky S-92
helicopter crashed during an emergency landing and burst into flames in Gapyeong
. Experts from the United States National Transportation Safety Board
, the United States Federal Aviation Administration
, Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation
, and General Electric
assisted the South Korean government in its investigation of the crash.
Criticism and controversies
Cult of personality
Sun Myung Moon's movement is widely seen as a cult
, with Moon as "messiah" and the proclaimed "divinity" of his family as the focus. Moon is known as the "True Father," his wife as the "True Mother," (together as the "True Parents
"), and their children as the "True Children
" (collectively as the "True Family
"). In her 1998 book In the Shadow of the Moons
, Nansook Hong
, ex-wife of Sun Myung Moon's eldest son Hyo Jin Moon
, (who lived with the Moon family for 15 years) says the leader and his family live a "lavish" lifestyle and that Sun Myung Moon is treated like a god. When greeting Moon indoors members bow "dropping to their knees and touching their foreheads to the floor," normally followed by a sermon of several hours while most members sit on the floor.
However, Peter Maass, in an article in The New Yorker, wrote:
- There are, certainly, differing degrees of devotion among Moon's followers; the fact that they bow at the right moment or shout "Mansei!" in unison doesn't mean they believe everything Moon says, or do precisely what he commands. Even on important issues, like Moon's claiming to be the messiah, there are church members whom I met, including a close aide to Moon, who demur. A religious leader whom they respect and whose theology they believe, yes; the messiah, perhaps not.
Abuse of money
Critics contrast Moon's "opulent" personal lifestyle with that of church members who are asked to sacrifice both in their careers and in donating most of what little they have. The Moon family situation is described as one of "luxury and privilege" and as "lavish".
Home for the True Family was a guarded 18-acre mini-castle in Irvington, New York, a tony suburb located along a sweep of the Hudson River. Named East Garden, after Eden, the estate included two smaller houses and a three-story brick mansion with 12 bedrooms, seven baths, a bowling alley, and a dining room equipped with a waterfall and pond. There were other castles and mansions too — in South Korea, Germany, Scotland, England — and few expenses were spared. The children had tutors from Japan, purebred horses, motorbikes, sports cars, and first-class vacations with blank-check spending. "The kids got whatever they wanted," says Donna Collins, who grew up in the church. "At one point, the Moon kids were each getting $40,000 or $50,000 a month for allowance. They had wads of cash. I remember once in London where [one of Justin’s sisters] spent like $2,000 a day; I saw a drawer filled with Rolexes and diamonds."
Moon controls major business enterprises, including The Washington Times, the United Press International, and Pyeonghwa Motors. A small sampling of other operations include computers and religious icons in Japan, seafood in Alaska, weapons and ginseng in Korea, huge tracts of land in South America, a recording studio and travel agency in Manhattan, a horse farm in Texas and a golf course in California.
To many people Rev. Moon's statements about the Kingdom of Heaven
sound like a demand for theocracy
. Church critics point to Moon's own statements: Steven Hassan
says "Moon's stated ambitions include the establishment of a one-world government run as an automatic theocracy by Moon and his leaders. Rick Ross
asserts "When Moon talks about a 'Kingdom of Heaven on Earth' imagine a one-world government run under his 'direction,' set up as a dictatorship much like the 'cult' he rules."
His position on the First Amendment prohibition against any law respecting an establishment of religion is unclear. Rev. Moon has frequently relied on First Amendment protections in various legal matters relating to himself or the Unification Church, but he also teaches that religion and politics are inseparable entities. Some consider his call for unity between religion and politics contrary to the principle of separation of church and state.
Church role in munitions manufacturing
Church-related businesses engaged in munitions manufacturing
in South Korea
during the 1960s, as charged in a U.S. Congressional Report on the Unification Church
According to the same report, "a Moon Organization business" was involved in weapons manufacture and "is an important defense contractor in Korea. It is involved in the production of M-16 rifles, antiaircraft guns, and other weapons." The report also said that
"[o]f particular concern is the Moon Organization’s involvement in the production and sale of M-16 rifles and other weapons provided to Korea under U.S. aid programs and subject to the Arms Export Control Act. In late 1977, Moon Organization representatives tried to renegotiate a coproduction agreement between Colt Industries and the ROK Government. The circumstances suggested they were secret envoys of the Korean Government which, under the coproduction agreement, has exclusive control over M-16 production. Although the ROK Government said it wanted to produce 300,000 extra M-16s because of the need to equip its own forces, Moon Organization tried to get Colt’s agreement to export guns to third countries."
Moon's fourth son, Kook Jin "Justin" Moon founded Kahr Arms, a small-arms company based in Blauvelt, New York with a factory in Worcester, Massachusetts.
According to the Washington Post, "Some former members and gun industry critics perceive a contradiction between the church's teachings and its corporate involvement in marketing weapons promoted for their concealability and lethality.
Opponents often cite the fact that Moon has served time in prison on tax charges and was banned from traveling to some countries as proof that he is not a legitimate religious leader. Moon's supporters dismiss the prison terms and travel bans as examples of persecution, arguing in particular that Jesus
himself was persecuted and ultimately executed by the Roman government.
In 2006 the German High Court reversed an earlier Schengen Agreement listing. Moon is now allowed entry into its implementing nations.
Comments on Homosexuality
In 1997 Moon received criticism from gay rights
advocates based on comments he made in a speech to church members, in which he said: "What is the meaning of lesbians and homosexuals? That is the place where all different kinds of dung collect. We have to end that behavior. When this kind of dirty relationship is taking place between human beings, God cannot be happy," and referred to homosexuals as "dung-eating dogs." He also said in 2007 that "free sex and homosexuality both are the madness of the lowest of the human race," and that God detests such behavior the most, while Satan lauds such decadent behavior the most.
Jews and the Holocaust
Other controversies arose over Moon's statements about the Holocaust
being (in part) "indemnity" (restitution) owed by the Jews, a consequence of Jewish leaders not supporting Jesus, which contributed to his murder by the Roman