News / Asia

    Unification Church Founder Sun Myung Moon Dies at 92

    In this Saturday, June 25, 2005 photo, Unification Church leader Rev. Sun Myung Moon speaks during his "Now is God's Time" rally in New York.In this Saturday, June 25, 2005 photo, Unification Church leader Rev. Sun Myung Moon speaks during his "Now is God's Time" rally in New York.
    x
    In this Saturday, June 25, 2005 photo, Unification Church leader Rev. Sun Myung Moon speaks during his "Now is God's Time" rally in New York.
    In this Saturday, June 25, 2005 photo, Unification Church leader Rev. Sun Myung Moon speaks during his "Now is God's Time" rally in New York.
    SEOUL — One of the most prominent and controversial Koreans in the world has died.  The Unification Church says its founder, Sun Myung Moon, succumbed to complications from pneumonia (Monday 9/3/12) at the age of 92, in a church-run hospital east of Seoul.  
     
    Sun Myung 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.
     
    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.
     
    Honorary research fellow in contemporary religion at Britain's University of Birmingham, George Chryssides, 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.  It is certainly something that does not go down well in religious circles," he said. 
     
    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 said 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 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 said the conflict among Moon's sons over financial assets is becoming serious. He notes media accounts of it referring 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. So what role she is going to have is not at all clear.  And I think anything could happen," he said. 
     
    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

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    Are US Schools Turning a Blind Eye to Radical Qatari Preachers?

    Parade of radical Islamist clerics using mosque at Qatar’s Education City draws mounting criticism for American universities that maintain satellite branches there

    Why Islamic State Is Down But Not Out

    Despite loss of territory, group’s ferocious attacks over past three months seen as testimony to its continued durability and resourcefulness

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Brian Birmingham from: Boston, MA
    September 07, 2012 8:35 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

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora