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

Unpaid Kurdish Fighters Sign of Economic Woes

Sharp cuts in Kurdistan's budget by Baghdad, falling oil revenue, coping with refugees, inflated public sector have hit regional economy hard More

Koreas Exchange List of Envoys for Family Reunion Talks

Officials will discuss date, venue and number of participants for reunion; Seoul hopes to hold event late this month More

China Targets 197 in Online Speech Crackdown

Nearly 200 punished for 'spreading rumors' online in ongoing crackdown on free speech 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.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs