Dark Side of Rev. Moon: Truth, Legend & Lies
By Robert Parry
For a decade and a half, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Washington Times
has pushed deeper and deeper into Washington's political mainstream. Though
viewed initially as a quirky right-wing propaganda sheet, the newspaper now
gets the respect that is afforded few other daily American newspapers. Given
its strategic spot in Washington, many of its stories are picked up
nationally; its columnists are regulars on TV talk shows; and C-SPAN's Brian
Lamb often hoists the front page before a national cable audience.
More broadly, the Times' day-in-day-out treatment of issues
shapes the parameters of journalistic attitudes in the nation's capital.
Yet, since its founding in 1982, the paper has held itself above traditional
journalistic principles of balance and objectivity.
During the 1980s, the Times gushed with favorable stories about
Ronald Reagan and his White House while pouring abuse on presidential
critics. Moon's paper was an important Republican weapon in congressional
battles and electoral campaigns, such as when it spread false rumors about
Michael Dukakis's mental health in 1988.
President Reagan and his successor, George Bush, recognized the
Times' contributions. Reagan hailed it as his "favorite"
newspaper, and in 1991, when Wesley Pruden was elevated to editor-in-chief,
Bush invited him to a private White House lunch "just to tell you how
valuable the Times has become in Washington, where we read it
every day." [WT, May 17, 1992]
After President Clinton's inauguration, the newspaper quickly flipped in its
attitude toward the White House -- from watch dog to attack dog. As Allan
Freedman reported in the Columbia Journalism Review, the paper
hammered at Clinton's "scandal-and-screw-up" with scoops on Whitewater and
on the death of deputy White House counsel Vincent Foster. "The
competition followed these stories, but the time and energy the
Times devoted to them helped drive the news," Freedman wrote in
That strategy has carried over into Clinton's second term. In recent
weeks, The Washington Times has pounded away at the Democratic
Party's acceptance of Asian money. Times' writers even have
heckled other media for not playing up dull Senate hearings on the issue.
Yet, while demanding thorough investigations of some Asian influence-buying,
the newspaper still takes pains to conceal its own clandestine Asian
financing -- and the Koreans who pull the strings of the newspaper's
editors. On the editorial page, the Times' masthead touts its
nickname as "America's Newspaper" and lists 19 executives with European-sounding
surnames: from the company's vice president to director of computer
services. But conspicuously absent from the list is the newspaper's
publisher, Dong Moon Joo, and its founder, Sun Myung Moon, the self-proclaimed
messiah who heads the Korea-based Unification Church.
In Moon's case, the Asian connection is especially relevant, because of
scandals surrounding his early activities in America. U.S. law-enforcement
and intelligence agencies monitored the church in the 1960s and '70s,
considering it a potential national security threat to the United States.
Reports by the CIA, the FBI and Defense Intelligence Agency painted a
picture of a secretive religion with close ties to South Korea's brutal
intelligence service, the KCIA, as well as to prominent right-wing
industrialists linked to the Japanese mob, the yakuza.
In the late 1970s, a congressional investigation drew on these reports in
tying the Unification Church to "Koreagate," an influence-buying scheme
directed by the KCIA against American targets. Investigators traced the
church's chief sources of money to bank accounts in Japan, but could
follow the cash no further.
When I inquired about the vast fortune that the Unification Church has
poured into its American operations, the church's chief spokesman refused
to divulge dollar amounts for any of Moon's activities. "Each year the
church retains an independent accounting firm to do a national audit and
produce an annual financial statement," wrote church legal representative
Peter D. Ross. "While this statement is used in routine financial
transactions by the church, [it] is not my policy to make it otherwise
avail-able." Ross also refused to pass on interview requests to Moon and
other church leaders.
For years, church officials have maintained that the money comes from U.S.
fund-raising and from varied businesses, machine manufacturing to tuna
fishing. But my interviews with a half dozen former senior church figures
found solid agreement that the expense of just keeping The Washington
Times afloat -- a figure that one ex-leader put at $100 million-plus
a year -- far exceeds what the church generates in the United States.
Who Is Sun Myung Moon?
Despite Moon's influence in Washington, few Americans know much about his
life and allegiances. His disciples already have begun to shroud his
biography in the fog of legend. Church publications are filled with
inspirational Sunday-school-type tales of Moon's courage and beneficence.
Propaganda has worked its way into popular accounts as well, with books
from conservative outlets, such as Regnery Publishing, challenging U.S.
government evidence on Moon. Still, much of the record of Moon's life and
his church's growth can be pieced together from government documents and
statements by longtime followers.
Moon was born on Jan. 6, 1920, in a rural corner of northwestern Korea to
a family which belonged to a Christian sect. Through Moon's first 25 years,
Japan occupied the Korean peninsula. In 1945, Allied forces ended that
control, but left Korea divided with Soviet troops in the north and U.S.
soldiers in the south.
In this post-war period, Moon moved to southern Korea and joined a mystical
sect called Israel Suo-won. The group preached the imminent arrival of a
Korean messiah and engaged in a strange sexual ritual called "pikarume," in
which ministers purify women through sexual intercourse, the so-called "blessing
of the womb."
With his developing theology, Moon returned to communist-ruled North Korea,
but soon ran into legal troubles. North Korean authorities arrested him
twice, apparently on morals charges connected to his sexual rites with
young women. Moon's supporters, however, claim the charge was espionage.
Nevertheless, on Oct. 14, 1950, with war raging on the Korean peninsula,
United Nations troops overran the prison where Moon was held. Moon and all
the other inmates were freed.
According to church histories, Moon then trekked south, carrying on his
back an injured prisoner named Pak Chung Hwa. (For years, church officials
have published a photograph purportedly showing Moon piggy-backing Pak
across a river. But several church sources now admit that the photo is a
hoax -- that Moon is not the man in the picture and the location is not
where Moon was.)
Moon's southward journey ended in the South Korean port of Pusan, where he
resumed his missionary work. He later moved to Seoul, South Korea's
capital, and founded his own church in May 1954. He called it T'ong-il
Kyo, or Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity.
It became known as the Unification Church.
At the center of Moon's theology was a new twist to the Old Testament story
about the Fall of Man. Instead of biting into a forbidden apple, Eve
copulated with Satan and then passed on the sin by having sex with Adam.
Thousands of years later, God sent Jesus to restore man to his original
purity, Moon taught. But Jesus failed because he was betrayed by the Jews
and died before he could father any sinless children.
That failure forced God to send a second Messiah, who turned out to be
Moon himself. Moon saw his task as starting the purification of mankind
and establishing God's Kingdom on Earth. Moon and his followers would rule
a worldwide theocracy. "We cannot separate the political field from the
religious," Moon declared.
But in South Korea, Moon's early religious recruitment of young idealistic
college students, especially from an all-girls Christian school, landed him
in hot water again. The South Korean government arrested Moon in 1955 for
allegedly conducting more sexual "purification" rites, according to several
U.S. intelligence reports which are now public. Moon was freed three months
later because none of the young women would testify for fear of public
humiliation, according to an undated FBI summary, released under a Freedom
of Information Act request.
"During the next two years in the national news media of South Korea, Rev.
Moon was the butt of scandalist humor," the FBI report stated. By the
late 1950s, however, Moon had managed to build a small cadre of followers.
He also was reaching out beyond Korea, sending his first missionaries to
Japan and the United States.
Church officials repeatedly have denied the reports of Moon's sexual
rituals. But the charges received new attention in 1993 with the Japanese
publication of The Tragedy of the Six Marys -- a book by the
early Moon disciple, Pak Chung Hwa, whom Moon supposedly carried to South
Korea. According to Pak's book, Moon taught that Jesus was supposed to
save mankind by having sex with six already-married women who would then
have sex with other men who would pass on the purification to other women
until, eventually, all mankind would have pure blood.
Pak contended that Moon took on this responsibility as the second messiah.
But Pak alleged that Moon abused the practice by turning the "six Marys"
into a kind of rotating sex club. Pak wrote that Moon's first wife
divorced him after catching him in a sex ritual. In all, Pak estimated
that there were at least 60 "Marys," many of whom ended up destitute after
Moon discarded them.
According to the testimony of one "Mary," named Yu Shin Hee, she met Moon
in the early 1950s and became a follower along with her husband. Devoted
to the church, her husband abandoned her and her five children, whom she
then put into an orphanage. She, in turn, agreed to become one of Moon's
"six Marys." But Yu Shin Hee claimed that Moon tired of her after just one "blood exchange," a phrase referring to sexual intercourse. Still, she was required to have sex with other men. Seven years later, a broken woman with no money, she tried to return to her children, but they also rejected her.
When Moon impregnated another one of the women, Moon sent her to Japan where she gave birth to a baby boy, according to Pak's account. Moon later admitted fathering the child, who died in a train crash at the age of 13. But Pak wrote that Moon refused to admit responsibility for other illegitimate children born to the women.
"By forwarding this teaching, he violated mothers, their daughters, their sisters," Pak claimed. But the sexual activity apparently did help in recruiting men to the church. By the early 1960s, the church was pulling in better educated young men, including some with connections to South Korea's intelligence agency, the KCIA, Pak wrote.
(After The Tragedy of the Six Marys was published, the church denounced the allegations as
spurious. Under intense pressure, the aging Pak Chung Hwa agreed to
recant. However, his book's accounts tracked closely with U.S.
intelligence reports of the same period and interviews with former church
KCIA Joins In
Kim Jong-Pil and three other young English-speaking army officers became
closely associated with Moon's church during this transitional phase. In
1961, Kim had founded the KCIA, which centralized Seoul's internal and
external intelligence activities. Another one of the young officers was
Col. Bo Hi Pak, one of Moon's ablest disciples.
With these young officers, however, it was never clear whether religion was
paramount or whether they recognized the potential that an international
church held as a cover for KCIA operations. In 1962, Kim Jong-Pil traveled
to San Francisco where he met with Unification Church members. According
to one account later published by a congressional investigation, the KCIA
founder promised discreet support for Moon's church.
At the same time, Kim Jong-Pil was in charge of South Korea's negotiations
with Japan to improve bilateral relations between the two former enemies.
Those talks put him in touch with key Japanese rightists, Yoshio Kodama
and Ryoichi Sasakawa, who had been jailed as fascist war criminals at the
end of World War II.
A few years after the war, however, both were freed by U.S. military
intelligence officials who wanted help in combatting communist labor
unions and student strikes. Kodama and Sasakawa obliged by dispatching
right-wing goon squads to break up demonstrations. They also allegedly
grew rich from their association with the yakuza, a shadowy organized
crime syndicate that profited off drug smuggling, gambling and prostitution
in Japan and Korea. Behind-the-scenes, Kodama and Sasakawa became
power-brokers in Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
Kim Jong-Pil's contacts with these right-wing leaders proved invaluable to
the Unification Church, which had made only a few converts in Japan by the
early 1960s. Immediately after Kim Jong-Pil opened the door to Kodama and
Sasakawa in late 1962, 50 leaders of an ultra-nationalist Japanese Buddhist
sect converted en masse to the Unification Church.
According to David E. Kaplan and Alec Dubro in their authoritative book,
Yakuza, "Sasakawa became an advisor to Reverend Sun Myung Moon's
Japanese branch of the Unification Church" and collaborated with Moon in
building far-right anti-communist organizations in Asia.
Eye on Washington
The church's growth spurt did not escape the notice of U.S. intelligence
officers in the field. One CIA report, dated Feb. 26, 1963, stated that
"Kim Jong-Pil organized the Unification Church while he was director of
the ROK [Republic of Korea] Central Intelligence Agency, and has been using
the church, which had a membership of 27,000, as a political tool." Though
Moon's church had existed since the mid-1950s, the report appeared correct
in noting Kim Jong-Pil's key role in transforming the church from a minor
Korean sect into a potent international organization.
With alliances in place in Tokyo and Seoul, the Unification Church next
took aim at Washington. In 1964, Bo Hi Pak moved to America and started
the Korean Cultural and Freedom Foundation, a front that performed the dual
purpose of helping Moon meet important Americans, while assisting the KCIA
in its international operations. Bo Hi Pak named Kim Jong-Pil, the KCIA
founder, to be the foundation's "honorary chairman." The foundation also
sponsored KCIA anti-communist propaganda outlets, such as Radio of Free
Asia, according to the congressional report on the Koreagate scandal.
Moon's church also was active in the Asian People's Anti-Communist League,
a fiercely right-wing group founded by the governments of South Korea and
Taiwan. In 1966, the group expanded into the World Anti-Communist League,
an international alliance that brought together traditional conservatives
with former Nazis, overt racialists and Latin American "death squad"
operatives. In an interview, retired U.S. Army Gen. John K. Singlaub, a
former WACL president, said "the Japanese [WACL] chapter was taken over
almost entirely by Moonies."
By the 1970s, the U.S. public was aware of Moon and his church, but much of
the attention was negative. Parents complained that the church brainwashed
their children into becoming robotic fund-raisers selling flowers and cheap
toys. The totalitarian nature of Moon's church stood out in his staging of
mass marriages, or "blessings," in which he would pair up husbands and
wives who had never met.
But the U.S. government suspected a political motive behind Moon's
activities. The FBI summary of its evidence was marked by a number
indicating that the Unification Church was under a counter-intelligence
investigation in the 1970s. The report's title, "Organizations and
Individuals Associated with the Reverend Sun Myung Moon and/or the
Unification Church," refers specifically to possible violation of the
foreign agent registration law.
Although blacked-out portions obscured who was stating some of the
conclusions -- a specific source or the FBI -- the report described the
church as "an absolutely totalitarian organization" which was part of an
international "conspiracy" that functioned by its own rules. "One of the
central doctrines of the Moon relig[i]ous aspects is what they call
heavenly deception. ... It basically says that to take from Satan what
rightfully belongs to God, you may do most anything. You may lie, cheat,
steal or kill."
Despite the FBI's concerns, Moon began making friends in Washington the old
fashioned way: by spreading around lots of money. Moon also had his
followers cozy up to government officials more personally. According to
the FBI summary, Moon designated "300 pretty girls" to lobby members of
Congress. "They were trying to influence United States senators and
congressmen on behalf of South Korea," the FBI document read.
Raising his profile even higher, Moon tried to bail President Nixon out of
the Watergate scandal by organizing a National Prayer and Fast Committee.
Moon used the slogan: "forgive, love, unite." During Nixon's final days,
the campaign earned Moon a face-to-face "thank you" from the embattled
The American defeat in Vietnam also deepened fears in Seoul about the U.S.
commitment to defend South Korea. In late 1975, the CIA intercepted a
secret South Korean document entitled "1976 Plan for Operations in the
United States." In the name of "strengthening the execution of the U.S.
security commitment to the ROK [South Korea]," it called for influencing
U.S. public opinion by penetrating American media, government and academia.
Thousands of dollars were earmarked for "special manipulation" of
congressmen; their staffs were to be infiltrated with paid "collaborators";
an "intelligence network" was to be put into the White House; money was
targeted for "manipulation" of officials at the Pentagon, State Department
and CIA; some U.S. journalists were to be spied on, while others would be
paid; a "black newspaper" would be started in New York; contacts with
American scholars would be coordinated "with Psychological Warfare Bureau";
and "an organizational network of anti-communist fronts" would be created.
Several months later, in summer 1976, Moon returned to the United States
and delivered a flattering pro-U.S. speech at the Washington Monument. On
a deeper level, however, Moon seemed to be following the KCIA script.
Moon started a small-circulation newspaper in New York City that featured
Jesse Jackson's column. Moon promoted the anti-communist cause through
front groups which held conferences and paid speaking fees to academics,
journalists and political leaders.
In 1976, Moon, Bo Hi Pak and other church members bought stock in the
Washington-based Diplomat National Bank. Simultaneously, South Korean
agent Tongsun Park was investing heavily in the same bank. Moon seemed to
have nearly unlimited money for his expanding church.
Though it's clear the church did collaborate with the KCIA during the
1960s and '70s, it's murkier whether Moon was using the KCIA or it was
using him. In many ways, the agendas of the two organizations overlapped:
the alliance gave Moon political protection and business opportunities,
while the KCIA got a cover for promoting South Korean interests inside the
United States, the country responsible for South Korea's defense.
But the South Korean scheme backfired in the late 1970s with the explosion
of a scandal dubbed "Koreagate." Rep. Donald Fraser, D-Minn., led a
congressional probe which tracked Tongsun Park's influence-buying campaign
and exposed the KCIA links to the Unification Church.
Moon and his new U.S. conservative allies mounted a strong defense,
however. In pro-Moon publications, Fraser and his staff were pilloried as
leftists. Anti-Moon witnesses were assailed as unstable liars. Minor
bookkeeping problems inside the investigation, such as Fraser's salary
advances to some staff members, were seized upon to justify demands for an
ethics probe of the congressman.
One of those ethics letters, dated June 30, 1978, came from John T.
"Terry" Dolan of the National Conservative Political Action Committee
(NCPAC). Dolan's group was pioneering the strategy of "independent" TV
attack ads which smeared liberal Democrats. In turn, Moon's CAUSA
International helped Dolan by contributing $500,000 to a Dolan group, known
as the Conservative Alliance or CALL. [ Washington Post,
Sept. 17, 1984]
With support from Dolan and others, Moon weathered the Koreagate political
storm. Fraser lost a Senate bid in 1978 and was out of Congress. Then, in
1980, Reagan won the White House and extended a VIP invitation for Moon to
attend the presidential inaugural. The theocrat had arrived.
But Moon still faced nagging legal problems from the 1970s. Over
objections from senior Reagan administration officials at the Justice
Department, federal prosecutors in New York City insisted on pursuing a
tax case against Moon for fraudulently reporting his income. The case led
to Moon's 1982 conviction and a 13-month prison term, but the more serious
case against Moon as a suspected intelligence agent petered out. It's
still not clear why.
"I don't think there was any doubt that the Moon newspaper took a
virulently pro-South Korea position," explained Oliver "Buck" Revell, then
a senior FBI official in the national security area. "But whether there
was something illegal about it..." His voice trailed off. As for the
internal security investigation in the 1970s, Revell added only: "It led
its full life."
Starting the Presses
While facing the tax charges in 1982, Moon launched his most ambitious
project, The Washington Times. From the start, the newspaper
claimed it would be independent of the church. But in its first decade,
it suffered a series of embarrassing resignations by top editors and
correspondents who complained of church interference.
In one typical case, Edmund Jacoby, a former Times national
security writer, described how in 1988 he was assigned to interview Soviet
dissident Mikhail Makarenko who told an apparently fabricated first-person
account about Soviet slave labor camps. Jacoby reported that the
Times editors pushed him to write a favorable article about
Makarenko and were annoyed when he debunked much of the dissident's tale.
Jacoby discovered later that the Unification Church was secretly
supporting Makarenko through CAUSA International.
"Why would any newspaper work so hard to get one of its own reporters to
tell an apparently false story?" Jacoby asked. "The answer lies in the
nature of Moon's enterprises in the United States. ... In a world in which
the perception of power is power, the purpose of everything that's done at
the Times is to give Moon the appearance of having power. For
Moon to gain cachet in the eyes of offshore anti-communists who might
extend privileges or cash to his operations, it's necessary to demonstrate
from time to time that he has the capacity to influence decisions in
Washington." [ Regardie's, November 1988]
In fall 1988, Moon's newspaper and other front groups pushed hard for
Bush's election. [For details, see first two parts of this series in
The Consortium, July 28 and Aug. 11, 1997] With Bush's decisive
victory, Moon's influence advanced again inside Washington. Church front
groups proliferated in dizzying numbers, as more and more prestigious
figures in politics, journalism and academia took Moon's money and
attended his gatherings.
But even as Moon consolidated influence in Washington, internal schisms
and bizarre behavior divided the church leadership. In 1989, published
reports disclosed that Moon had declared that one of his sons, Heung Jin
Moon who died in a car crash in 1984, had come back to life in the body of
a church member from Zimbabwe. The powerful African -- known inside the
church as the "black Heung Jin" -- then compelled church leaders to stand
before him and engage in humiliating self-criticisms.
During one of these rituals in December 1988, the Zimbabwean severely beat
longtime Moon lieutenant Bo Hi Pak, who was then publisher of
The Washington Times. Pak reportedly suffered brain damage and
impaired speech. Church sources told me that Moon had sanctioned the
assault and then transferred his out-of-favor aide to Japan.
A Whiff of Jonestown
Commenting on the incident, former Times editor William P.
Cheshire wrote, "Where the Moonies are concerned, it seems clear, we are
dealing with something be-sides just an exotic cult. The Pak beating
smacks strongly of Jonestown. And with Moon lavishing hundreds of
millions of dollar a year on newspapers, magazines and political-action
groups in this country and abroad, such occult and aggressive practices
give rise to secular apprehensions. If the 'reincarnation' doesn't rock
those conservative shops that have been taking money from Moon, not even
fire-breathing dragons would disturb them."
[ San Diego Union-Tribune, April 9, 1989]
Despite his success in Washington, Moon was growing annoyed with his
followers for failing him and bitter toward the American people for
rejecting his theology. In a speech on Jan. 2, 1996, Moon gave voice to
this self-pity. "If Father were to complain about his course of life
during the past 40 years," Moon said, speaking of himself in the third
person, "imagine how much he would have been able to complain. ... Many
people didn't accomplish their missions. If Father had begun to complain
about his followers and the evil world that didn't accept him, what kind
of miserable life Father would have. Do you understand?"
Since coming to America, Moon also has downplayed his provocative sexual
beliefs, but sometimes the old themes do pop up. After Moon spoke in
Minneapolis on Oct. 26, 1996, a reporter for the Unification News,
an internal newsletter, commented that "what the audience heard was not
the usual things that one would expect to hear from a minister. Rev.
Moon's talk included a very frank discussion of the purpose, role and true
value of the sexual organs." [December 1996]
Moon's unusual attitudes have affected the children of his current marriage
to Hak Ja Han Moon, too. Hidden behind the walls of luxurious estates
scattered around the world, these supposedly perfect children of the "True
Parents" have lived pampered and peculiar lives. They now are adding more
fissures to the church's inner empire. ~
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