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, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline 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.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid