The Dark Side of Rev. Sun Myung Moon
Part 4, Truth, Legend & Lies
By Robert Parry
August 25, 1997
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
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 March 1995.
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
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
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
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
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 president.
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
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. ~
Robert Parry is a veteran investigative reporter, who broke
many of the Iran-contra stories in the 1980s for The Associated Press and
Newsweek. Robert Parry's latest book is Secrecy & Privilege: Rise
of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq. It can be purchased at
It's also available at
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