October 11, 2000
Rev. Moon, North Korea & the Bushes
By Robert Parry
The Rev. Sun Myung Moon's business empire, which includes the conservative Washington Times, paid millions of dollars to North Korea's communist leaders in the early 1990s when the hard-line government needed foreign currency to finance its weapons programs, according to U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency documents.
The payments included a $3 million “birthday present” to current communist leader Kim Jong Il and offshore payments amounting to “several tens of million dollars” to the previous communist dictator, Kim Il Sung, the partially declassified documents said.
Moon apparently was seeking a business foothold in North Korea. But the transactions also raise legal questions for Moon and could cast a shadow on George W. Bush’s presidential campaign, given the Bush family’s longstanding financial and political ties to Moon and his organization.
Besides making alleged payments to North Korea’s communist leaders, the 80-year-old founder of the South Korean-based Unification Church has funneled large sums of money, possibly millions of dollars as well, to former President George H.W. Bush.
One well-placed former leader of Moon’s Unification Church told me that the total earmarked for former President Bush was $10 million. The father of the Republican nominee has declined to say how much Moon’s organization actually paid him for speeches and other services in Asia, the United States and South America.
At one Moon-sponsored speech in Argentina in 1996, Bush declared, “I want to salute Reverend Moon,” whom Bush praised as “the man with the vision.”
Bush made these speeches at a time when Moon was expressing intensely anti-American views. In his own speeches, Moon termed the United States “Satan’s harvest” and claimed that American women descended from a “line of prostitutes.”
During this year’s presidential campaign, Moon’s Washington Times has attacked the Clinton-Gore administration for failing to take more aggressive steps to defend against North Korea’s missile program. The newspaper called the administration’s decisions an “abdication of responsibility for national security.”
A Helping Hand
Yet, in the 1990s when North Korea was scrambling for the resources to develop missiles and other advanced weaponry, Moon was among a small group of outside businessmen quietly investing in North Korea.
Moon’s activities attracted the attention of the Defense Intelligence Agency, which is responsible for monitoring potential military threats to the United States.
Though historically an ardent anticommunist, Moon negotiated a business deal in 1991 with Kim Il Sung, the longtime communist leader, the DIA documents said.
The deal called for construction of a hotel complex in Pyongyang as well as a new Holy Land at the site of Moon's birth in North Korea, one document said. The DIA said the deal sprang from a face-to-face meeting between Moon and Kim Il Sung in North Korea from Nov. 30 to Dec. 8, 1991.
“These talks took place secretly, without the knowledge of the South Korean government,” the DIA wrote on Feb. 2, 1994. “In the original deal with Kim [Il Sung], Moon paid several tens of million dollars as a down-payment into an overseas account,” the DIA said in a cable dated Aug. 14, 1994.
The DIA said Moon's organization also delivered money to Kim Il Sung's son and successor, Kim Jong Il.
“In 1993, the Unification Church sold a piece of property located in Pennsylvania,” the DIA reported on Sept. 9, 1994. “The profit on the sale, approximately $3 million was sent through a bank in China to the Hong Kong branch of the KS [South Korean] company ‘Samsung Group.’ The money was later presented to Kim Jung Il [Kim Jong Il] as a birthday present.”
After Kim Il Sung's death in 1994 and his succession by his son, Kim Jong Il, Moon dispatched his longtime aide, Bo Hi Pak, to ensure that the business deals were still on track with Kim Jong Il “and his coterie,” the DIA reported.
“If necessary, Moon authorized Pak to deposit a second payment for Kim Jong Il,” the DIA wrote.
The DIA declined to elaborate on the documents that it released to me under a Freedom of Information Act request. “As for the documents you have, you have to draw your own conclusions,” said DIA spokesman, U.S. Navy Capt. Michael Stainbrook.