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

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' 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.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs