News / Asia

Unification Church Founder Dies at 92

A woman pays respect to the Rev. Sun Myung Moon at a Unification Church in Tokyo, September 3, 2012.A woman pays respect to the Rev. Sun Myung Moon at a Unification Church in Tokyo, September 3, 2012.
x
A woman pays respect to the Rev. Sun Myung Moon at a Unification Church in Tokyo, September 3, 2012.
A woman pays respect to the Rev. Sun Myung Moon at a Unification Church in Tokyo, September 3, 2012.
Unification Church founder Sun Myung Moon has died at the age of 92. Moon succumbed to complications from pneumonia early Monday in a church-run hospital east of the South Korean capital, Seoul.

The Unification Church, which asserts its founder is revered as the Messiah by millions of people, says Sun Myung Moon has now “ascended” after being surrounded by family and close disciples in his last hours.

Moon leaves behind not only an apocalyptic religious movement, but a global empire possibly still worth billions of dollars.
 
Its businesses are involved in publishing, education, real estate, the hospitality industry, health care and even gun-manufacturing. A church-controlled seafood conglomerate is believed to supply most of the fish for sushi eaten in America.

Spokesman Kim Hyung-suk at the South Korean government's Unification Ministry (which is tasked with North-South relations in lieu of diplomatic ties) acknowledges discussions are underway on whether a delegation of mourners from Pyongyang would be given rare permission to enter the South for Moon's funeral.

Kim says the South Korean government will make a decision about this but it is not appropriate to publicly discuss it at the moment.

Moon was born in 1920 in what is now North Korea. He started his church in 1954. His followers became known as “Moonies” with the church gaining a reputation as a cult with deceptive tactics in recruiting followers and maintaining tight control over their lives.
 
The group gained notoriety for mass weddings where couples, who had never met, were married to other church followers selected by its founder, who presided over the ceremonies in a robe and with a crown atop his head.
 
George Chryssides, an honorary research fellow in contemporary religion at Britain's University of Birmingham, says Moon and his church were shunned by established Christian organizations.
 
“Within mainstream Christianity there is an absolute rejection that anyone should produce new scriptures or claim to be a new messiah," siad Chryssides. "It is certainly something that does not go down well in religious circles.”
 
Professor Tark Ji-il, who teaches religion at Busan Presbyterian University, contends that in the Unification Church's theology the ultimate goal was to establish a heavenly kingdom on the Korean peninsula with Moon as king.

Tark says this did not deviate since the church was established and its vast business activities were focused on this goal.
 
Japan was once considered to be a primary source of the church's wealth, in part derived from persuasive door-to-door peddling of religious icons.  But there were more nebulous allegations there from the late 1960's, when numerous Japanese ultra-nationalists and gangsters joined the church.
 
Over the years Moon sought to influence politics in both South Korea and the United States.
 
In the 1970's he was the target of U.S. government investigations.
 
In 1982, Moon was convicted of tax fraud and spent 13 months in a U.S. federal prison.  He denied allegations his attempts to influence lawmakers were done in collusion with South Korea's intelligence agency, an allegation raised during a subsequent congressional investigation.
 
Even though he once was an ardent anti-communist, Moon later put ideology aside to do business with Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea, where he had once been imprisoned in the late 1940's.
 
Chryssides, author of The Advent of Sun Myung Moon: The Origins, Beliefs and Practices of the Unification Church, predicts money, rather than theology, will be Moon's lasting legacy.
 
“It is also something that will keep his organization going in whatever form the new leadership sees fit,” he said.
 
Leadership roles in the church's sprawling empire in recent years have been split among several of Moon's children. Some of the businesses have struggled amid reports of infighting among the heirs.  It is unclear if the family-run empire will be able to remain intact without its charismatic founder, who regarded himself as the Messiah.
 
Professor Tark, who is also editor-in-chief of South Korea's Contemporary Religion magazine is skeptical.
 
Tark says the conflict among Moon's sons over financial assets is becoming serious. He notes that media accounts refer to the in-fighting as “the rebellion of princes.”
 
Moon officially handed over the presidency of the church to his youngest son, Hyung-jin, (also known as Sean). But Chryssides says Moon's widow, Han Hak-ja, retains a critical position within the church.
 
“Theologically she is the Messiah, as well. In Unification thoughts, there is not just one messiah there are the two - there's the male and the female," added Chryssides. "So what role she is going to have is not at all clear.  And I think anything could happen.”
 
Professor Jo Eung-tae, in the unification theology department at the church's Sun Moon University in Asan (South Korea), expects the children to remain subordinate to their mother.
 
Jo says, overall, Han will now lead the entire church while her children will have their own roles, with the youngest son responsible for religious activities.
 
Moon was quoted in his teachings predicting “a big commotion” after his death, but promised he would continue to lead his church from the spirit world.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

Russian Help on Iran Less Promising on Syria, Ukraine

US-Russian collaboration to secure a deal on Iran's nuclear program has raised hopes of closer cooperation on other world issues More

Video US: Millions Exploited by Vast Fortunes of Human Trafficking

State Department's annual report calls exploitation 'modern slavery,' brutalizing girls, women into prostitution and forcing men, women and children into low-wage jobs across the globe More

US-Ethiopia Relationship Strong, But Complicated

While Ethiopia serves as a valuable security ally and a bulwark against terrorism - the U.S., is a major aid donor and economic stimulator More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Brian Birmingham from: Boston, MA
September 12, 2012 2:04 PM
"During the time of the "Koreagate" scandal in 1976-1977, the Fraser Committee found that the National Intelligence Service of South Korea (KCIA), had, among other things, been using the Unification Church as a political tool in its various anti-communist activities. The KCIA's general goal was to influence the domestic and foreign politics and policies of the United States. Eighty-one pages of the 447-page Fraser Report (pages 311-392) deals specifically with the Moon organization. The term "KCIA" occurs sixty-eight times within those eighty-one pages." Source:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steven-hassan/why-the-reported-sale-of-_b_707744.html

Please also see:

http://freedomofmind.com/Info/infoDet.php?id=137&title=Moon_Organization__-_Resources

http://freedomofmind.com/Info/docs/fraserport.pdf

by: Mike from: California
September 03, 2012 1:31 PM
In desperate times, some people will latch-on to a messionic cult firgure. There are many cases of this here in the U.S. I won't name them for fear of being censored or hurting someone's feelings, which is so important these days. But with a little thought we can identify them. Some of their followers run for national office. Some build "compounds" and collect young women "followers." P.T. Barnam would be impressed!

by: Jerry Frey from: USA
September 03, 2012 7:35 AM
Another phony messiah bites the dust. Get some historical facts you nay be unfamiliar with about the real One.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backersi
X
Michael Bowman
July 26, 2015 8:44 PM
Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Underground Streetcar Station In Washington, DC, to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Rise in HIV Infections Worries Ugandan Officials

Uganda had the third-highest number of new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa last year, reversing its reputation for successfully tackling the epidemic in the 1990s. Although the percentage of people living with HIV/AIDS is still half of what it was in the 1980s, the increase in new infections is worrying to health workers. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs