Sun Myung Moon

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This is a Korean name; the family name is Moon.
Sun Myung Moon
Rev. Sun Myung Moon speaks, Las Vegas, NV, USA on April 4, 2010.png
Moon in Las Vegas, Nevada, 4 April 2010
Born Mun Yong-myeong
(1920-02-25)25 February 1920
Jeong-ju, North P'yŏng'an, Japanese Korea
(now North Pyongan, North Korea)
Died 3 September 2012(2012-09-03) (aged 92)
Gapyeong, South Korea
Nationality Korean
Occupation Religious leader, business magnate, media mogul, political activist
Known for Founder of Unification Church
Spouse(s) Choi Sun-kil (1944–1953)
Hak Ja Han (1960–2012)
Children 16
Korean name
Hangul 문선명
Revised Romanization Mun Seon-myeong
McCune–Reischauer Mun Sŏnmyŏng
Birth name
Hangul 문용명
Hanja 文龍明
Revised Romanization Mun Yong-myeong
McCune–Reischauer Mun Yongmyŏng

Sun Myung Moon (Korean 문선명; born Mun Yong-myeong; 25 February 1920 – 3 September 2012) was a Korean religious leader, business magnate, political activist, and media mogul.[1][2] A self-proclaimed messiah, he was the founder of the Unification Church and of its widely noted "Blessing" or mass wedding ceremony.[3][4] His extensive business interests included News World Communications, an international news media corporation[5] which founded The Washington Times and owns other media in several countries,[5][6][7] and Tongil Group, a South Korean business group (chaebol) active in manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, tourism, and publishing.[8][9][10]

Born in what is now North Korea, Moon's family converted to Christianity when he was a child.[11] In 1954, he founded the Unification Church in Seoul, South Korea based on conservative, family-oriented teachings from new interpretations of the Bible.[11][12] He outlined these principles in his book, Explanation of the Divine Principle.[4][11] In the 1960s and 1970s, he was a leading figure in a wave of new religious movements that raised controversy on several issues.[1] Followers, who were then sometimes called "Moonies", considered him their True Father while critics labeled him a cult leader.[13][14][15] In 1982, he was found guilty of willfully filing false federal income tax returns and sentenced to 18 months in federal prison in a controversial case.[4][16][17]

Determined to spread his influence beyond religion and improve the church's image with the public, Moon became active in conservative politics, courted world leaders, founded numerous civic organizations and expanded his business interests and affiliated organizations.[1][11][18] An ardent anti-communist and advocate for Korean reunification, his support helped turn The Washington Times into a respected newspaper in conservative circles.[19][20]

Early life[edit]

Sun Myung Moon was born Mun Yong-myeong on 25 February 1920, in modern-day North P'yŏng'an Province, North Korea, at a time when Korea was under Japanese rule. He was the younger of two sons in a farming family of eight children.[12] Moon's family rejected the Shinto faith pushed by the country’s Japanese rulers and followed Confucianist beliefs until he was around 10 years old, when they converted to Christianity and joined the Presbyterian Church.[21] When he was 15, Moon said that Jesus Christ anointed him to carry out his unfinished work by becoming parent to all of humanity.[3][15][22]

In 1941, Moon began studying electrical engineering at Waseda University in Japan.[13] During this time he cooperated with Communist Party members in the Korean independence movement against Imperial Japan.[23] In 1943, he returned to Seoul and married Sun Kil Choi on April 28, 1945, and they had a son, Sung Jin Moon on April 2, 1946. On January 8, 1957, Moon and Choi divorced.[1] Following World War II, Korea was divided along the 38th parallel into two trusteeships: the United States and the Soviet Union.[15][24]

Pyongyang was the center of Christian activity in Korea until 1945. From the late forties 166 priests and other religious figures were killed or disappeared in concentration camps, including Francis Hong Yong-ho, bishop of Pyongyang[25] and all monks of Tokwon abbey.[26][27] Moon was arrested by the North Korean authorities on allegations of spying for South Korea and given a five-year sentence to the Hŭngnam labor camp.[12] In 1950, during the Korean War he escaped and fled to Pusan, South Korea.[28][29][30]

Unification church[edit]

Moon and Hak Ja Han
Moon and Hak Ja Han

Founding of church in South Korea[edit]

Moon emerged from his years in the labor camp as a staunch anti-communist.[12] His teachings viewed the Cold War between democracy and communism as the final conflict between God and Satan, with divided Korea as its primary front line.[31] At his new church, he preached a conservative, family-oriented value system and his interpretation of the Bible.[4][32] In 1954, Moon formally founded the Unification Church as the "Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity" in Seoul. He quickly drew young acolytes who helped to build the foundations of church affiliated business and cultural organizations.[12][33]


Moon as messiah[edit]

The Divine Principle, the main text explaining Moon's theology, blends Christianity with Eastern philosophies like Confucianism and Korean shamanism. It makes the core statement that Moon was sent from the East to be the messiah and finish Jesus' mission.[4][15] Moon stated that during the vision he had when he was 15, Jesus Christ called upon him to carry out his unfinished work - his failure to marry.[17] Jesus was divine but not God; he was supposed to be the second Adam who would create a perfect family by joining with the ideal wife and creating a pure family that would have begun humanity's liberation from the sinful condition caused by Eve’s illicit sex with Satan.[13] When Jesus was crucified before marrying, he redeemed mankind spiritually but not physically. That task was left to the "True Parents" - Moon and Han - who would link married couples and their families to God.[13][18][22] According to Korean religious magazine HDJONGKYO, Moon claimed that human corruption was a result of sexual corruption. According to the Divine Principle, human corruption started when angel Lucifer and Eve; the mother of all mankind committed adultery. There are two types of human corruption which is spiritual and physical. The spiritual corruption is the adultery committed by Eve and the angel Lucifer, and the physical corruption means sexual relationship between Adam and Eve. Corrupted humans can receive salvation only through the law of Pigarum; having sex with the second coming Jesus.[24]

Marriage to Hak Ja Han, True Parents[edit]

Moon married his second wife, Hak Ja Han, on 11 April 1960, soon after she turned 17 years old, in a ceremony called the Holy Marriage. Han is called Mother or True Mother, and she and Moon together are referred to as the True Parents by members of the Unification Church.

Blessing ceremony[edit]

Moon and Han preside over a blessing ceremony in 1982
Moon and Han preside over a blessing ceremony in 1982

Moon was renowned for presiding over mass "blessing ceremonies", the most famous ritual of the Unification Church.[4][15][21][34] The ceremonies gained international attention for joining thousands of identically dressed brides and grooms - many who had never met before - in matrimony.[2] Meant to highlight the church's emphasis on traditional morality, they brought Moon fame and notoriety in equal measure.[35]

36 couples participated in the first ceremony in 1961 for members of the early church in Seoul, South Korea. The ceremonies continued to grow in scale; over 2,000 couples participated in the 1982 one at New York's Madison Square Garden, the first outside South Korea.[11][13] In 1997, about 30,000 couples took part in a ceremony in Washington, DC.[36]

In church doctrine, the wedding (or marriage re-dedication) ceremony removes couples from the lineage of sinful humanity and grafts them into God’s sinless lineage.[15][21] After the third generation of intra-Unification Church blessed marriages, any children born will be free from the consequences of original sin. For single members of the church, the ceremony is the culmination of a process towards an arranged marriage. Romantic liaisons are forbidden until the members are ready to be matched.[37]

Moon matched couples from differing races and nationalities as part of his belief that all of humanity should be united: "International and intercultural marriages are the quickest way to bring about an ideal world of peace. People should marry across national and cultural boundaries with people from countries they consider to be their enemies so that the world of peace can come that much more quickly."[4][11][22]

Cheon Seong Gyeong - Sexual Organs Doctrine[edit]

Moon's doctrine that is centered on sexual motif becomes more conspicuous in his new scriptures called the Cheon Seong Gyeong. In the book he explained that man and woman's sexual organs are the three parts of the Three Great Original Palaces and the Most Holy Place, and praised that these sexual reproductive organs are holy, holy, and holy.[38][39]

How did man and woman come into existence? What makes them different? How do they become one? Centering on what do man and woman unite? Centering on the sexual organs. This is how they harmonize. Love is perfected in this place. True love is perfected for the first time there. That is also where the lives of man and woman are united, and their lineages interchanged and planted. The sexual organs are the original palace of the ideal love and lineage. The absolute original place is called the original palace, and no one can change its value. (228-51, 1992.3.3)

Sun Myung Moon, Cheon Seong Gyeong[38][39]

What is the sexual organ, the original palace where man and woman make love? It is the palace of love, life and lineage. Grandfathers and grandmothers treasure it, as do fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, and all sons and daughters yet to be born. Is there any woman or man who does not treasure it? Then why did they become such a bad thing? People regard any word connected to sex as bad. Why is it bad? It should be holy. You should accept words connected to sex as holy. The sexual organs connect to eternal love to bring forth eternal life and eternal lineage. They are the most precious things. (210-101, 1990.12.1)

Sun Myung Moon, Cheon Seong Gyeong[38][39]

In his 2004 book The New Religious Movement Experience in America religious scholar Eugene V. Gallagher commented on this: "The Divine Principle's analysis of the Fall sets the stage for the mission of Rev. Moon, who in the last days brings a revelation that offers humankind the chance to return to an Edenic state. The account in the Divine Principle offers Unificationists a comprehensive context for understanding human suffering."[40]

World fame[edit]

In the 1970s, Moon, who had seldom before spoken to the general public, gave a series of public speeches to audiences in the United States, Japan, and South Korea. The largest were a rally in 1975 against North Korean aggression in Seoul and a speech at an event organized by the Unification Church in Washington D.C.[41] [42]

In 1971, Moon moved to the United States, which he had first visited in 1965. He remained a citizen of the Republic of Korea and maintained a residence in South Korea.[43] In 1972, Moon founded the International Conference on the Unity of the Sciences, a series of scientific conferences.[44][45] The first conference had 20 participants, while the largest conference in Seoul in 1982, had 808 participants from over 100 countries.[46][47] Participants included Nobel laureates John Eccles (Physiology or Medicine 1963, who chaired the 1976 conference),[48] Eugene Wigner (Physics 1963).[49]

In 1974, Moon asked church members in the United States to support President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal when Nixon was being pressured to resign his office. Church members prayed and fasted in support of Nixon for three days in front of the United States Capitol, under the motto: "Forgive, Love and Unite." On 1 February 1974 Nixon publicly thanked them for their support and officially received Moon. This brought the church into widespread public and media attention.[50]

In 1982, Moon sponsored the film Inchon about the Korean War, which was not successful critically or financially.[51]

In 1982 The Washington Times was founded by News World Communications, an international media conglomerate associated with Moon which also owns newspapers in South Korea, Japan, and South America, as well as the news agency United Press International.[52] Bo Hi Pak, Moon's chief aide, was the founding president and the founding chairman of the board.[53] The political views of The Washington Times are often described as conservative.[54][55][56] The Washington Times was a favorite read for President Ronald Reagan, but never a financial success.[57] By 1991, Moon said he spent about $1 billion on the paper[58] (by 2002 roughly $1.7 billion),[59] which he called "the instrument in spreading the truth about God to the world".[60]

In August 1985, seven years before the fall of Soviet Union, the Professors World Peace Academy, an organization founded by Moon, sponsored a conference in Geneva to debate the theme "The situation in the world after the fall of the communist empire."[61]

United States v. Sun Myung Moon[edit]

In 1982, Moon was convicted in the United States of filing false federal income tax returns and conspiracy. His conviction was upheld on appeal in a split decision. Moon was given an 18-month sentence and a $15,000 fine. He served 13 months of the sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution, Danbury before being released on good behavior to a halfway house.[62]

The case was the center of national freedom of religion and free speech debates.[63] Prof. Laurence H. Tribe of the Harvard University Law School argued that the trial by jury had "doomed (Moon) to conviction based on religious prejudice."[64] The American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A, the National Council of Churches, the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference filed briefs in support of Moon.[65] Many notable clergy, including Jerry Falwell and Joseph Lowery, signed petitions protesting the government's case and spoke out in defense of Moon.[66][67]

1990s events[edit]

In April 1990, Moon visited the Soviet Union and met with President Mikhail Gorbachev. Moon expressed support for the political and economic transformations under way in the Soviet Union. At the same time the Unification Church was expanding into formerly communist nations.[68] In 1991, he met with Kim Il Sung, the North Korean President, to discuss ways to achieve peace on the Korean peninsula, as well as on international relations, tourism, etc.[69] In 1994, Moon was officially invited to the funeral of Kim Il Sung, in spite of the absence of diplomatic relations between North Korea and South Korea.[70]

Twenty first Century events[edit]

In 2000, Moon sponsored a United Nations conference which proposed the formation of "a religious assembly, or council of religious representatives, within the structure of the United Nations."[71]

In 2003 Moon sponsored the first Peace Cup international club football tournament.[72][73][74] The Los Angeles Galaxy, which competes in Major League Soccer, played in South Korea in the Peace Cup.[75] During the event Pelé, widely regarded as the best soccer player of all time and former Brazilian Sports Minister, met with Moon.[76]

On 12 September 2005, at the age of 85, Moon inaugurated the Universal Peace Federation with a 120-city world speaking tour.[77] At each city, Moon delivered his speech titled "God's Ideal Family – the Model for World Peace".

In April 2008, Moon appointed his youngest son Hyung Jin Moon to be the new leader of the Unification Church and the worldwide Unification Movement, saying, "I hope everyone helps him so that he may fulfil his duty as the successor of the True Parents."[78]

In 2009, Moon's autobiography, As a Peace-Loving Global Citizen (Korean: 평화를 사랑하는 세계인으로),[79] was published by Gimm-Young Publishers in South Korea. The book became a best-seller in Korea and Japan.[80][81][82][83]

By 2010, Moon had given much of the responsibility for the Unification Church's religious and business activities to his children, who were then in their 30s and 40s.[84] In 2012, the South Korean press reported that Moon traveled worldwide in his private jet which cost $50 million.[85][86]

Illness and death[edit]

On 14 August 2012, after suffering from pneumonia earlier in the month, Moon was admitted to Saint Mary's Hospital at The Catholic University of Korea in Seoul.[87] On 15 August 2012, he was reported to be gravely ill and was put on a respirator at the intensive care unit of St. Mary’s Hospital.[88] On 31 August 2012, Moon was transferred to a church-owned hospital near his home in Gapyeong, northeast of Seoul,[89] after suffering multiple organ failure.[90] Moon died on the morning of 3 September 2012 (1:54 am KST) at the age of 92.[91]

Honorary degrees and other recognition[edit]

Moon held honorary degrees from more than ten universities and colleges worldwide;[92][93][94] at least one of which, the University of Bridgeport, received significant funding from his organizations.[95] He was a member of the Honorary Committee of the Unification Ministry of the Republic of Korea.[96] In 1985, Moon and his wife received Doctor of Divinity degrees from Shaw University.[97]

In 2004, at event in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, in Washington, D.C., Moon was honored as the Messiah. This was criticized by The New York Times and The Washington Post as a possible violation of the principle of separation of church and state in the United States. Some of the political figures who had attended the event later told reporters that they had been misled as to its nature.[98][99]

Moon was posthumously awarded North Korea's National Reunification Prize in 2012[100] and a meritorious award by K-League.[101][102] On the first anniversary of Moon's death, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un expressed condolences to Han and the family saying: "Kim Jong-un prayed for the repose of Moon, who worked hard for national concord, prosperity and reunification and world peace."[103]

In 2013, Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai stated: "I remain greatly inspired by people like Reverend Dr. Sun Myung Moon, whose work and life across continents continue to impact positively on the lives of millions of others in the world."[104]

Activities and interests[edit]


In 1964 Moon founded the Korean Culture and Freedom Foundation, which promoted the interests of South Korea and sponsored Radio Free Asia. Former U.S. Presidents Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon were honorary presidents or directors at various times.[105]

In 1980, Moon asked church members to found CAUSA International as an anti-communist educational organization, based in New York.[106] In the 1980s, it was active in 21 countries. In the United States it sponsored educational conferences for Christian leaders[107] as well as seminars and conferences for Senate staffers and other activists.[108] In 1986, it produced the anti-communist documentary film Nicaragua Was Our Home.[109]

Moon and his church are known for their efforts to promote Korean unification.[19] In 2003, Korean Unification Church members started a political party in South Korea. It was named "The Party for God, Peace, Unification, and Home." In its inauguration declaration, the new party said it would focus on preparing for Korean reunification by educating the public about God and peace.[110] Moon was a member of the Honorary Committee of the Unification Ministry of the Republic of Korea.[111] In 2012 Moon was posthumously awarded North Korea's National Reunification Prize.[100]

Official events have periodically been held in honor of Sun Myung Moon in the municipalities of Korea.[112] Moon's projects have been lobbied in the National Congress of Brazil by Brazilian MPs.[113][114][115] Moon has held dialogues between members of the Israeli Knesset and the Palestinian Parliament as part of his Middle East Peace Initiatives.[116]


News World Communications, is an international news media corporation[5] founded by Moon in 1976. It owns United Press International, The World and I, Tiempos del Mundo (Latin America), The Segye Ilbo (South Korea), The Sekai Nippo (Japan), the Zambezi Times (South Africa), The Middle East Times (Egypt).[6] Until 2008 it published the Washington D.C.-based newsmagazine Insight on the News.[5] Until 2010, it owned the Washington Times. On 2 November 2010, Sun Myung Moon and a group of former Times editors purchased the Times from News World.[117]

Tongil Group is a South Korean business group (chaebol "Tongil" is Korean for "unification," the name of the Unification Church in Korean is "Tongilgyo."), founded in 1963 by Moon as a nonprofit organization which would provide revenue for the church. Its core focus was manufacturing but in the 1970s and 1980s it expanded by founding or acquiring businesses in pharmaceuticals, tourism, and publishing.[8] Among Tongil Group’s chief holdings are: The Ilwha Company, which produces ginseng and related products; Ilshin Stone, building materials; and Tongil Heavy Industries, machine parts including hardware for the South Korean military.[10]

The church is the largest owner of U.S. sushi restaurants and in the Kodiak region of Alaska, is the area's largest employer.[118][119] The church owns the only automobile manufacturing plant in North Korea, Pyeonghwa Motors, and is the second largest exporter of Korean goods.[120][121][122][123]

In 1989, Moon founded Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma,[124] the most successful soccer club in Korean football, having won a record 7 league titles, 2 FA Cups, 3 League Cups, and 2 AFC Champions League titles.

In 2004, Moon held an opening ceremony of the largest helicopter manufacturer in Asia, with 500 VIPs participating. Called Washington Times Aviation, the company produces Sikorsky helicopters on a sub-contract basis.[125] The same year, Moon launched a $1.5-billion construction project to build 70-story twin skyscrapers in Seoul.[126] The next year he bought an area of 46,000 m² in Seoul, also for the construction of skyscrapers.[127] Currently the project is under construction and scheduled to be completed by 2013.[128]

In 2011, construction of $18 million Yeosu Expo Hotel was completed; the hotel located at Moon-owned The Ocean Resort in Yeosu, the venue of the Expo 2012.[129] The opening ceremony was attended by the governor of the province.[129][130] Another one, The Ocean Hotel, was completed in February 2012.[131] Moon-owned Yeongpyeong Resort, The Ocean Resort and Pineridge Resort are scheduled to host the Expo 2012,[132][133] 2018 Winter Olympics[134][135] and Formula 1.[136] Moon also managed the FIFA-accredited Peace Cup.[137] The FIFA itself has funded more than $2m for the Peace Cup since 2003.[138]

Race relations[edit]

Although conservative on most other issues, Moon took a strong stance against racism and racial discrimination. In 1974 he urged Unification Church members to support an African American president of the United States: "We have had enough of white presidents. So, let's this time elect a president from the Negro race. What will you do if I say so? There's no question there. We must never forget that we are brothers and sisters in a huge human family. In any level of community, we must become like a family."[139]

In 1981 he said that he himself was a victim of racial prejudice in the United States (concerning his prosecution on tax charges in United States v. Sun Myung Moon), saying: "I would not be standing here today if my skin were white or my religion were Presbyterian. I am here today only because my skin is yellow and my religion is Unification Church. The ugliest things in this beautiful country of America are religious bigotry and racism."[140]

Several African American organizations and indiviuals spoke out in defense of Moon at this time including the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the National Conference of Black Mayors,[141] and Joseph Lowery who was then the head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.[142]

In a later controversy over the use of the word "Moonie" by the American news media, which was said to be offensive, Moon's position was supported by civil rights activists Ralph Abernathy[143][144][145] and James Bevel.[146]

In 2000 Moon and The Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan got together to sponsor the Million Family March,[147] a rally in Washington D.C to celebrate family unity and racial and religious harmony; as well as to address other issues, including abortion, capital punishment, health care, education, welfare and Social Security reform, substance abuse prevention, and overhaul of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.[148] In his keynote speech Farrakhan called for racial harmony.[149]


In 1962, Moon and other church members founded the Little Angels Children’s Folk Ballet of Korea, a children's dance troop which presents traditional Korean folk dances. He said that this was to project a positive image of South Korea to the world.[150] In 1990, Moon founded the $8-million Universal Ballet project, with Soviet-born Oleg Vinogradov as its art director and Moon's daughter-in-law Julia as its prima ballerina. It was described by The New York Times as the top ballet company in Asia.[151]


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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]