The reporting and punditry in the wake of the death of Sun Myung Moon has left a lot to be desired. Even long, seemingly comprehensive treatments of Moon's life and empire, such as the one that ran in The New York Times, did not delve deeply into Moon's profound far right and criminal involvements; antidemocratic politics; or even the mysterious sources of foreign cash for The Washington Times, and extensive political operations in the U.S. for decades, let alone the Moon organization's broad, insidious affects on American culture and democracy. There has also been some embarrassingly credulous material published about the nature of life in the Church itself, and some odd, unsubstantiated pooh poohery about the problem of cultism.
Of course, history lives, despite the best efforts of some of us not to notice.
Here are a few things from my own knowledge that merit far greater, and better attention than they have generally received so far.
No report that I have seen has gone very deeply into the role of the Moon organization in the Koreagate scandal of the 1970s. A Congressional investigation exposed a massive covert operation and influence buying effort by the government of South Korea against the U.S. The Korean Central Intelligence Agency, (KCIA) -- some of whose operatives were top leaders of the Unification Church. The church itself was revealed to have been crafted by the KCIA into a "political tool." A notable exception to this unfortunate trend, was a remembrance by a staffer on the Koreagate investigation, published in the MinnPost. The article quotes from a book by Koreagate staff director Robert Boettcher, Gifts of Deceit: Sun Myung Moon, Tongsun Park, and the Korean scandal. For details on the investigation, see the conclusions of the Report by the House Committee on International Relations, October, 31, 1978. (PDF)
One of the architects of the "New Right" of the 1970s and beyond was Richard Viguerie. He was best known as a direct mail entrepreneur. Much less well-known is that one of his first clients was a front group for the KCIA and the Moon organization called the Korean Cultural Freedom Foundation. This group, ostensibly about anti-communist education, was broadcasting KCIA propaganda radio programming into North Korea and Vietnam. Viguerie has had many Moon front groups as clients over the years, and when his businesses foundered in the 1980s, the Moon organization purchased his office building for ten million dollars. (I detail some of this history in my book, Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy.
In 1987 I published an expose in Extra!, the magazine of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, on how top executives of The Washington Times and its parent company were current or former KCIA agents:
Three NWC executives are not only top Unification Church officials, but have also had high-ranking posts in the Korean CIA (KCIA). Sang Kook Han, a "personal assistant" to the KCIA director in the early 1960s, later served as South Korea's ambassador to Norway and Panama. In 1984, Han was installed at the Washington Times, precipitating the resignation of editor James Whelan. Currently senior vice president of New World Communications, Han is described by Whelan as the "de facto publisher" and "inspector general" of the Times.Although I wish the paper had gotten into it more, The Washington Post's epic coverage of Moon's life and empire offered a few telling details about the way that the Moon organization has intervened in our domestic politics and foreign policy.
Kim Sang In, another NWC executive, was KCIA station chief in Mexico in the '70s. There, according to U.S. congressional investigators, he functioned as the "control agent" for Tungsun Park, who bribed U.S. officials to gain favors for the South Korean government in what became known as "Koreagate." Congressional probers disclosed that illegal espionage operations linked to Koreagate were carried out by the Unification Church at the behest of the KCIA.
Bo Hi Pak, the president of NWC, served as liaison to the U.S. intelligence community while posted in Washington as South Korean military attache in the 1960s and early '70s, according to the Koreagate inquiry. Pak is also president of CAUSA (Confederation of the Associations for Unity of the Societies of the Americas), the political arm of the Unification Church. CAUSA was instrumental in providing aid to the Nicaraguan contras.
During the height of the Nicaraguan civil war in the 1980s, the Washington Times led a fundraising drive on behalf of the contras, a rebel group that sought to overthrow the country’s leftist government. Another church-linked organization, the American Freedom Coalition, paid for a direct mailing to 25 million households that criticized 1988 Democratic presidential candidate Michael S. Dukakis.What the story does not mention is that Richard Viguerie was an officer of the American Freedom Coalition and did direct mail for the organization. In Eternal Hostility, I discuss how the AFC was, between the collapse of Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority, and the creation of Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition, the leading political organization of the Religious Right; for example, spending millions of dollars printing and distributing presidential candidate scorecards tilted to favor George H.W. Bush over Michael Dukakis in 1988 -- among many other campaign activities.
While the issue of religious freedom is much in the news lately, Moon and his supporters who were waving the bloody shirt of alleged violations of religious freedom to advance their interests in the 1980s. Moon was convicted of tax fraud and served 13 months in federal prison. (I wrote about the case and the subsequent bruhaha at the time, and later in Eternal Hostility.) Moon was shown to have been specifically advised by his attorneys to keep his personal and church accounts separate. He didn't. He diverted contributions intended for church purposes to his personal use; and later supervised the production of false books. He is a convicted felon. But you would not know that to read most of the accounts of his life.
The Moon organization has played a pivotal role in underwriting vast political and media projects in the U.S. But the sources of the funding has always been mysterious, although every investigation has shown that most if not all of the funding comes from foreign sources, primarily Japan. This includes as much as three billion spent to underwrite the The Washington Times alone over the past 30 years.
Former Newsweek and Associated Press investigative reporter Robert Parry has published a vast amount of material on this, including Moon's involvement with military dictators and drug cartels in Latin America and the Japanese Yakuza.
But Moon's relationships with drug-tainted gangsters and corrupt right-wing politicians go back to the early days of his Unification Church in Asia. Moon's Korea-based church made its first important inroads in Japan in the early 1960s after gaining the support of Ryoichi Sasakawa, a leader of the Japanese yakuza crime syndicate who once hailed Italian dictator Benito Mussolini as "the perfect fascist." In Japan and Korea, the shadowy yakuza ran lucrative drug smuggling, gambling and prostitution rings.For more on the World Anti-Communist League, see the book Inside the League, by Jon Lee Anderson and Scott Anderson. For a serious discussion of the role of cultism in the Moon organization, see Combating Cult Mind Control, by Steven Hassan.
The Sasakawa connection brought Moon both converts and clout because Sasakawa was a behind-the-scenes leader of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party. On the international scene, Sasakawa helped found the Asian People's Anti-Communist League, which united the heroin-stained leadership of Nationalist China with rightists from Korea, Japan and elsewhere in Asia. [For details, see Yakuza by David E. Kaplan and Alec Dubro]
In 1966, the Asian league evolved into the World Anti-Communist League with the inclusion of former Nazis from Europe, overt racialists from the United States and "death squad" operatives from Latin America, along with more traditional conservatives.
The Moon organization has undermined American democracy for decades, and helped to make the conservative movement what it is today. The cult totalism that made ordinary Americans into zealots for a messianic Korean with a fascist political agenda and ties to the people who brought us World War II, is not something to be taken as lightly as seems to be fashionable among some of those who have been asked to comment on the life and death of Sun Myung Moon. As always, there is a battle going on for the narrative of American history, and the role of the Moon organization is part of it.