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Rev. Moon's Troubled Generation Next
Update: In a normal world, the question of who will succeed a crazed cult leader like the 89-year-old Rev. Sun Myung Moon would not be an issue of much public importance. But – incredibly – Moon’s money-laundering empire was allowed to become a major funding source for America’s powerful right-wing media and key Republicans.
Estimates of how much money Moon has poured into the Washington Times, which since 1982 has been a major Republican propaganda outlet, range into the billions of dollars. Many millions of dollars more have gone into the coffers of right-wing organizations and into the pockets of key politicians, including members of the Bush family.
So, America’s Right and the GOP had reasons to hope that Moon would oversee a smooth transition to a new generation of leaders and keep the mysterious overseas money flowing into the U.S. right-wing media/political machinery.
However, things haven’t gone as planned, with an apparent succession struggle breaking out between two of Moon’s sons, Hyun Jin “Preston” Moon and a younger brother, Hyung-jin Moon, with the Washington Times emerging as one of the battlefields.
This week, three top executives – Times publisher Thomas McDevitt, chairman Dong Moon Joo (not a Moon son), and chief financial officer Keith Cooperrider – were ousted as part of a power struggle that has been simmering for months.
In one recent rant at his New York estate, Sun Myung Moon even warned that he might shut down the Washington Times because of his anger over the dissension.
“Even if I get rid of the Washington Times, I can create a better newspaper company in Russia or China within six months,” Moon told a gathering of his Unification Church followers on Sept. 18, 2009, according to notes published at a Moon Web site.
“I worry whether to keep the Washington Times alive. The Washington Times has to take responsibility for people going to hell in America.”
Moon then ordered several Washington Times executives to hug each other, including two of the executives, McDevitt and Dong Moon Joo, who were fired this week.
At the same bizarre Sept. 18 gathering, Moon added, “I did not come here for the Washington Times; I came to the U.S. to build a Peace Army and Peace Police, not to solve the Washington Times problem. This is much more important than the Washington Times.”
Moon boasted that, “Even in America now, I know about 70% of the 200 main people in the media world. How could I know them? It’s because Heaven taught me and God taught me about them. Do you understand?”
Though Moon’s acolytes have often tried to portray Moon as a great admirer of the United States, his private comments have long revealed his contempt for American democratic values and the nation’s respect for individualism.
In speeches to Unification Church members, Moon has vowed to subjugate the United States through a political takeover that would involve liquidating Americans who resisted.
In the mid-1990s, for instance, Moon vowed that his theocratic movement would “swallow entire America” and once that takeover was complete, there would be “some individuals who complain inside your stomach. However, they will be digested.” [See Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]
As recently as an Aug. 31, 2009, speech in Las Vegas, Moon was again musing about how Americans would have to die so his movement could succeed. “Because of mistakes and disunity, American people will have to shed blood,” Moon told a group of his followers.
But Moon’s plans to subjugate the United States rely mostly on his belief that he has infiltrated American power centers, particularly through his lavish funding of the Right and pro-Republican media.
Thus, Moon’s succession is a matter of concern to Republicans and right-wing groups that have long fed at Moon’s financial trough. And, troubles with Moon’s succession date back to the 1990s when his first plan was to elevate Hyo Jin, his oldest son by his current marriage.
But Hyo Jin proved to a spoiled young man who abused cocaine and beat his wife, setting the stage for one of the notable public embarrassments of Moon’s career.
After Hyo Jin’s wife, Nansook, fled Moon’s compound north of New York City, some of the sordid personal facts came out, as well as evidence of money-laundering. Hyo Jin was pushed aside in favor of younger siblings. (Hyo Jin died on March 17, 2008, of an apparent heart attack at the age of 45.)
In 1997, the final part of our series on the “Dark Side of Rev. Moon” took a look at Moon’s troubled “Generation Next” and the collapse of the Hyo Jin Moon succession:
In August 1995, a thin dark-haired Asian woman furtively led her five children in an escape from an elegant mansion on an 18-acre estate overlooking the Hudson River north of New York City.
Fearful of her tyrannical husband, the woman was abandoning a life as a modern-day princess who had "wanted for nothing," a pampered existence with docile American servants tending to her every need.
But her husband's violent behavior, made worse by a cocaine addiction and strange sexual habits, finally drove the woman to flight. She took her children from Irvington, New York, to Massachusetts and hid out with relatives.
The woman's story bubbled briefly to the surface weeks later when she filed for a divorce in Middlesex Probate Court in Massachusetts. But the case still received little attention, even though it held the key to unlocking secrets of a troubling international scandal involving power, money and sex.
The woman was Nansook Moon, described by friends as resembling a Korean Faye Dunaway. Nansook also was the daughter-in-law of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.
At 15, Nansook was picked by Moon to be the bride of Hyo Jin Moon, the eldest son from Moon's current marriage. Then 19, Hyo Jin was considered Moon's heir apparent -- the future overseer of the church's vast business empire and its secret network of political connections.
On one level, the Nansook case challenged Moon's peculiar theology which makes him the all-wise messiah and his immediate family the embodiment of human perfection. Moon has his followers call him True Father and his wife True Mother. Their 13 offspring are the children of the True Family.
Yet, inside the church, the Moon children have gained a reputation as spoiled rich kids, buying whatever they want and waited upon by worshipful American church members.
When one daughter wanted to ride in Olympic equestrian events, Moon built a horse-riding facility in Deer Park, New York, for $10 million. When Hyo Jin fancied himself a heavy-metal rock musician, Moon snapped up New York City's Manhattan Center, an old opera house with a recording studio.
But more important to American politics is how the Nansook case strikes at the hypocrisy of "pro-family" conservatives who have accepted Moon's financial largesse and tolerated Moon's expanding political influence.
The Nansook case peels away Moon's bought-and-paid-for respectability and implicates his organization in a wide variety of financial irregularities, including money-laundering.
In a sworn affidavit, Nansook described how she and other members of Moon's family lived the royal life inside the Irvington, New York, compound. But the price for that life of luxury was tolerating Hyo Jin's violent outbursts.
"From very early in our marriage, Hyo Jin has abused drugs and alcohol and is an addict as a result," Nansook wrote. "He has a ritual of secreting himself in the master bedroom, sometimes for hours, sometimes for days, drinking alcohol, using cocaine and watching pornographic films. ... When he emerges he is more angry and more volatile."
Nansook described a pattern of abuse which included Hyo Jin beating her in 1994 when she disrupted one of his cocaine parties. "He punched me in the nose and blood came rushing out," Nansook wrote. "He then smeared my blood on his hand, licked his hand and said, 'It tastes good. This is fun'." At the time, she was seven months pregnant.
On another occasion, she said he forced her to stand naked in front of him for hours because "I needed to be humiliated."
Meanwhile, Nansook complained that her in-laws did little to confront Hyo Jin. "Although Hyo Jin's family knew of his addictions and his abuse of me and the children, I received very little emotional or physical support from them," Nansook wrote. "I was constantly at the mercy of Hyo Jin's erratic and cruel behavior."
Cash in the Box
To finance his personal and business activities, Hyo Jin received hundreds of thousands of dollars in unaccounted cash, Nansook asserted.
"On one occasion, I saw Hyo Jin bring home a box about 24 inches wide, 12 inches tall and six inches deep," she wrote in her affidavit. "He stated that he had received it from his father. He opened it. ... It was filled with $100 bills stacked in bunches of $10,000 each for a total of $1 million in cash!
“He took this money and gave $600,000 to the Manhattan Center, a church recording studio that he ostensibly runs. He kept the remaining $400,000 for himself. ... Within six months he had spent it all on himself, buying cocaine and alcohol, entertaining his friends every night, and giving expensive gifts to other women."
Another time, a Filipino church member gave Hyo Jin $270,000 in cash, according to Nansook. She added that Hyo Jin also ordered the Manhattan Center to cover his credit-card bills which often exceeded $5,000 a month and that he instructed employees to buy drugs for him with the company's money.
After fleeing with the children, Nansook said she feared that Hyo Jin would "hunt me down and kill me." To protect her, Associate Justice Edward M. Ginsburg barred Hyo Jin from approaching Nansook and the children.
Taking into account Hyo Jin's jet-set lifestyle, Ginsburg also ordered Hyo Jin to pay $8,500 a month in support payments and $65,000 for Nansook's legal fees.
Ginsburg ruled that Hyo Jin "had access to cash in any amount requested on demand" from "commingled" church and personal money. Ginsburg noted, too, that Hyo Jin received $84,000 a year from a family trust and earned a regular salary from the Manhattan Center.
On July 17, 1996, when Hyo Jin failed to pay Nansook's legal fees, he was held in contempt of court and jailed in Massachusetts.
To free Hyo Jin, the Unification Church's vaunted legal team sprang into action. The lawyers developed a strategy that portrayed Hyo Jin as a man of no means. They filed a bankruptcy petition on his behalf in federal court in Westchester County, New York.
As part of those filings, Hyo Jin's lawyers submitted evidence that on Aug. 5, 1996, three weeks after his jailing, Hyo Jin was severed from the Swiss-based True Family Trust. The lawyers also submitted a document showing that as of Aug. 9, Hyo Jin had lost his $60,000-a-year job at Manhattan Center Studios "due to certain medical problems."
Nansook's lawyers denounced the bankruptcy maneuver as a devious scheme to spare Hyo Jin from his financial obligations. To corroborate Nansook's statements about Hyo Jin's access to nearly unlimited money, her lawyers secured testimony from a former Manhattan Center official and Unification Church member, Maria Madelene Pretorious.
At a court hearing, Pretorious testified that in December of 1993 or January of 1994, Hyo Jin Moon returned from a trip to Korea "with $600,000 in cash which he had received from his father. ... Myself along with three or four other members that worked at Manhattan Center saw the cash in bags, shopping bags."
On another occasion, Hyo Jin's parents gave him $20,000 to buy a boat, Pretorious recalled. There was a time, too, when Hyo Jin dipped into Manhattan Center funds to give $30,000 in cash to one of his sisters. The center also gave Hyo Jin cash several times a week to cover personal expenses, ranging from bar tabs to a Jaguar automobile, Pretorious said.
But Hyo Jin Moon won the legal round anyway. A judge ruled that the federal bankruptcy claim, no matter how dubious, overrode the Massachusetts contempt finding. Hyo Jin was released from jail.
As those legal battles were playing out, I met with Pretorious at a suburban Boston restaurant. A law school graduate from South Africa, the 34-year-old full-faced brunette said she was recruited by the Unification Church through the Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles -- a Moon student front group known as CARP -- in San Francisco in 1986-87.
In 1992, she went to work at the Manhattan Center. "Hyo Jin's desire to become a rock star did not fit with Reverend Moon's concept of what his eldest son should be doing," Pretorious told me. But younger church members sympathized with the rebellious son.
"We wanted to help Hyo Jin to attain his own position in the church," she said. "With the Manhattan Center, he found a niche."
But Hyo Jin Moon was explosive. "If he becomes displeased with you, the verbal attack is very harsh, very rash, it comes out of nowhere," Pretorious explained.
Those reactions were even worse when he was abusing cocaine, which he insisted to his friends had a medicinal value in relieving physical pain from a past car accident.
"He just had this whole convoluted story about him having to take it because of his back," Pretorious said. "It helped him relax."
In fall 1994, Pretorious said Hyo Jin tried to lure several of his subordinates at the Manhattan Center into his cocaine lifestyle. She recalled him driving three of them in his black Mercedes into Harlem where he double-parked and ran into a building to buy cocaine.
"We were sitting there and the first thing I thought was a black Mercedes in Harlem, I thought, 'hello,'" Pretorious said.
When Hyo Jin climbed back into the car, he began offering samples to his guests.
"'Have you ever tried cocaine?' and [I said] 'like, no, I've never tried it,'" Pretorious said. "So from Harlem driving back to New York, he was trying to convince me to take the cocaine. Eventually, he said, 'Don't you want to try it once. Aren't you curious?'
“That's the wrong thing to say to me, because I think I'm in control of my life. So I say I'll try it once. ... It's the first time. I'm not sure how it's supposed to affect me. ... After a while he says, 'How you feeling?' and I'm going, 'Well, I'm not like feeling anything.'"
A Kareoke Experience
Hyo Jin's fondness for hard partying sometimes annoyed Pretorious and the others who had work to do at Manhattan Center.
"Nobody enjoys this because the next day you have to deal with clients," Pretorious said. But Hyo Jin's near-god-like status in the church made Pretorious and the others nervous about rejecting his invitations.
She described one night when Hyo Jin wanted his staff to take him to a Kareoke bar in Queens. "Back at the New Yorker Hotel [another church property], he picked up a reluctance in me to participate," Pretorious said. "He offered me cocaine, and I said, 'no, thank you.' I felt good" about resisting.
At first, Hyo Jin seemed to accept the rebuff. With an imperious gesture, he declared, "I give you permission to bitch." Despite her reservations, Pretorious then joined the Kareoke outing.
"He'd been drinking a lot," she recalled. "He got quieter and quieter. [Then] he started heaving, swearing, using really abusive language. 'You fucking bitch! How dare you challenge me!' ...
“He took an ashtray and threw it at me. It didn't hit me, but hit the wall behind me. He kept lunging at me across the cocktail table. That was the first time that I feared for him and feared that he was going to hurt me."
During fall 1994, with Nansook pregnant again with their fifth child, Hyo Jin began an affair with an American church member who had been "blessed" or married to a Korean, Pretorious said. "I could see that he [Hyo Jin] was out of control," Pretorious added. "I realized that I couldn't stay at Manhattan Center."
In Pretorious's view, Hyo Jin was always torn between his responsibility to the church and his lust for personal pleasure. "Hyo Jin loved the life of hedonism," Pretorious said. "He loved the women, taking drugs -- particularly cocaine -- and watching pornography."
His predicament was made worse when he learned, apparently from a family member in 1992, that the long-denied accounts of Rev. Moon's sexual rites with early female initiates were true, Pretorious said.
"When Hyo Jin found out about his father's 'purification' rituals, that took a lot out of wind out of his sails," she said. "A lot of the situation that Hyo Jin is in is very much because of who his father is. ... The whole messiah thing. He [Rev. Moon] basically was subject to delusions of grandeur."
A Mysterious Half-Brother
In late 1994, during conversations in Hyo Jin's suite at the New Yorker Hotel, "he confided a lot of things to me," Pretorious continued. Hyo Jin had discovered, too, that Rev. Moon had fathered a child out of wedlock in the early 1970s.
Moon arranged for the child to be raised by his longtime lieutenant Bo Hi Pak, Pretorious said. The boy -- now a young man -- had confronted Hyo Jin, seeking recognition as Hyo Jin's half-brother. Pretorious said she later corroborated the story with other church members.
"Here's a guy who struggles with a weakness for women and finds out that his father screws around," Pretorious said. "This is even after he [Rev. Moon] has been married to the present Mrs. Moon."
Pretorious found the new revelations about Rev. Moon also upsetting because of the central place that the marriage "blessing" plays in Unification Church theology, as a way to purify mankind.
"They want people to look at their family and see it as ... a family that represents certain moral and ethical standards," Pretorious continued. "My faith was based, I feel, on a deceptiveness."
Pretorious was disturbed, too, by the way cash, brought to the United States by Asian members, would circulate through the Moon business empire as a way to launder it. The money would then go to support the Moon family's lavish life style or be diverted to other church projects.
At the center of the financial operation, Pretorious said, was One-Up Corp., a Delaware-registered holding company that owned Manhattan Center and other Moon enterprises including New World Communications, the parent company of The Washington Times.
"Once that cash is at the Manhattan Center, it has to be accounted for," Pretorious said. "The way that's done is to launder the cash. Manhattan Center gives cash to a business called Happy World which owns restaurants. ...
“Happy World needs to pay illegal aliens. ... Happy World pays some back to the Manhattan Center for 'services rendered.' The rest goes to One-Up and then comes back to Manhattan Center as an investment."
Hyo Jin Moon did not respond to interview requests sent through his divorce lawyer and the church. Church officials also were unwilling to discuss Hyo Jin's case. But Hyo Jin was forced to produce documents and discuss his financial predicament in the bankruptcy proceedings.
'Guns & Music'
In a bankruptcy deposition on Nov. 15, 1996, Hyo Jin came across to the lawyers as alternately confused and petulant.
"All I like was guns and music," he volunteered at one point. "I'm a boring person." (In the bankruptcy, Hyo Jin sold a collection of 51 guns, mostly of recent manufacture. The collection was valued at about $36,000, plus nearly $3,000 worth of ammunition.)
As for his CARP presidency, from 1982-87, Hyo Jin explained haltingly, "I guess you could say all my life I've been -- I guess I've been -- groomed toward becoming a youth -- a leader, of some sort, by my parents. ... I like to call myself a figurehead. And that's what I -- my function was primarily to give speeches."
His position in the church, however, did give him access to money.
In 1989, he said he used church donations to buy a Mercedes 560SEL for his parents. In 1992, he bought a Mercedes 500 to replace the earlier model. He then "had the luxury of using" the older Mercedes himself until he lost his license in 1992 after a driving-while-intoxicated conviction. Over the years, he also bought motorcycles and a boat.
Hyo Jin described himself as the chief executive officer of the Manhattan Center. "I was given the position by my parents," he testified. Hyo Jin confirmed, too, that he had received hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash at the Manhattan Center that was not reported as taxable income.
"[In] 1993, I received some cash, yes," he said. "At that time around 300, 500 Japanese members were touring America and they stopped by to see the progress that was happening at Manhattan Center, because it was well known within the inner ... church community that I was doing a project, a cultural project.
“And they came and I presented a slide show, and they were inspired by that prospect and actual achievement at that time, so they gave donations. ... It was given to me. It was a donation to me."
"Did you report that gift to the taxing authorities?" a lawyer asked.
"It was [a] gift," Hyo Jin responded. "I asked [Rob Schwartz, the center's treasurer] whether I should. He said I didn't have to. You have to ask him."
When pressed for clarification about this tax advice, his lawyer counseled Hyo Jin not to answer. "I'm taking that advice," Hyo Jin announced. "My lawyer's advice not to answer it."
Hyo Jin also confirmed that he received cash from Madelene Pretorious "on a few occasions" in late 1994.
"And for how much did you ask?" a lawyer asked.
"I don't remember," Hyo Jin answered. "You could ask her."
When asked what he had done with the cash, Hyo Jin responded, "I partied it."
Pressed about whether another Manhattan Center employee had made purchases for him, Hyo Jin snapped, "Maybe I asked him to buy me a coffin, yes, maybe I did. ... I used to party with him. I asked him to buy popcorn for me when I go to a movie."
Hyo Jin said that in November 1994, he took a leave from the Manhattan Center to undergo treatment for "my addiction problem." He checked into the Betty Ford Center.
"Who paid for it?" a lawyer asked.
"I have no idea," he responded. "Somebody did."
Hyo Jin also recalled a stay in the Henry Hazelton addiction center in West Palm Beach, Florida. "I got kicked out," he said. "I was there for three weeks, I got kicked out ... because I wasn't cooperating."
At another point in the deposition, Hyo Jin insisted he had not read his own bankruptcy petition. The petition had listed the Manhattan Center as an unsecured creditor to which he owed $60,000, but Hyo Jin said he did not know about the purported debt.
"I'm not sure who I owe to, but I know I owe money to a lot of people," he said.
Though Hyo Jin was supposedly terminated from the True Family Trust in August 1996, he testified in November that "my wife gets all of the money that comes to the trust fund, that comes to the trust that I'm supposed to receive. ... I'm giving every cent and more, I mean if I have more, to my wife. ..."
"Are you receiving any distributions from your trust indenture, the True Family Trust?"
"I thought I did. I thought I did."
"Right now you do?"
"I guess so. I don't know. I'm not sure. ... I don't know what I'm talking about."
Even before his divorce and bankruptcy, Hyo Jin had been stumbling into legal mishaps. In December 1995, for instance, White Plains, New York, police summoned Hyo Jin and other convicted drunk drivers who had lost their licenses to meet with new probation officers.
After the meeting, two dozen of the violators, including Hyo Jin, were secretly videotaped as they drove away in their cars. Hyo Jin was arrested for driving without a valid license.
But Hyo Jin was not the only Moon child to rebel. Accustomed to getting their own way, some of the children have resisted Moon's insistence on selecting their spouses, as he does for all church members.
One daughter reportedly ran off with a boyfriend to live in Greenwich Village. Another daughter has moved to rural Virginia to pursue her dream to be an equestrian. Ex-church members with first-hand knowledge say drug use and promiscuity have been common among the True Family.
An Exodus of Loyalists
Troubling to the Unification Church, too, is the fact that longtime senior members -- disturbed by this behavior -- have been exiting.
Dennis and Doris Orme, who were among Moon's earliest Western followers, have left and are considering legal action to secure pensions, according to friends and legal sources. Ron Paquette, who spent two decades in the church and worked closely with Hyo Jin at the Manhattan Center, has quit, too.
Paquette declined to be interviewed for this article, but faxed a brief statement saying: "The events which have transpired since my departure, in particular with respect to Rev. Moon's own family, have greatly saddened me. ...
“I have found ... that my deepest fears and suspicions were actually correct -- that those who held themselves up as the highest were, in fact, neither honest about their lives nor capable of living the standard of love and compassion they so readily demanded."
Commenting on Moon's family problems and other cracks in the leadership, another close church associate sighed, "The inner empire is crumbling."
The new evidence of money-laundering and diverting corporate funds for personal use, however, could lead to more serious complications with the Internal Revenue Service and other federal agencies. Evidence of Asian cash pouring into the United States from abroad also could revive long-standing suspicions that the church itself is a front for foreign influence buyers.
In a series of interviews, other church-connected figures corroborated claims by Nansook Moon and Pretorious that money arrives from overseas to sustain the Moon organization.
John Stacey, a former CARP leader in the Pacific Northwest, said the current fund-raising operations inside the United States barely cover the costs of local offices, with little or nothing going to the big-ticket items, such as The Washington Times. Stacey added that the church-connected U.S. businesses are mostly money losers.
"These failing businesses create the image of making money ... to cover his back," Stacey said of Rev. Moon. "I think the majority of the money is coming from an outside source."
(Stacey, who knew Hyo Jin through CARP, also called Moon's son a tyrant. "Hyo Jin would scream at and reprimand the members," Stacey recalled. But almost worse, Stacey added, was that members would be forced to listen to tapes of Hyo Jin's music while their "mobile fund-raising teams" traveled in vans from town to town. "He's a miserable musician," Stacey said. "His music stinks.")
Another member who recently quit a senior position in the church confirmed that virtually none of Moon's American operations makes money. Instead, this source, who declined to be identified by name, said hundreds of thousands of dollars are carried into the United States by visiting church members. The cash is then laundered through domestic businesses.
Another close church associate, who also requested anonymity out of fear of reprisals, said cash arriving from Japan was used in one major construction project to pay "illegal" laborers from Asia and South America.
"They [the church leaders] were always waiting for our money to come in from Japan," this source said. "When the economy in Japan crashed, a lot of our money came from South America, mainly Brazil."
But even as Moon's inner circle undergoes strains and questions are raised about his mystery money, his temporal power continues to grow in the United States and elsewhere. Every year, he locks more and more politicians, ministers, journalists and academics into his orbit. Without doubt, the gravitational pull is the money arriving from abroad in seemingly limitless supplies.
Particularly among conservatives in Washington, Moon's money seems to have bought him freedom from the normal laws of political physics. He appears immune from the scrutiny that would follow an influential international figure with a significant presence in the nation's capital.
Strangest of all, Moon's immunity applies even when the scandal is about power, money and sex.
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there. Or go to Amazon.com.
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