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Moon, Sun Myung

Born: 1920 AD
Currently alive, at 100 years of age.
Nationality: Korean
Categories: Founder, Humanitarian, Orators, Religious Leaders

Reverend Sun Myung Moon is the founder and spiritual leader of the Unification Church and its institutional successor, the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification. The broader Unification Movement includes foundations and enterprises operating in the realms of religion, academia, the arts, media, sports, agriculture, technology, ocean enterprises, and more.

Born into a farming family in 1920 in what is now North Korea, Reverend Moon became a Christian at age 10 at a time when occupying Japanese forces brutally persecuted Christians. He received a calling from Jesus in 1935 and subsequently pursued a course of prayer and study of Christian and other scriptures. During this period of spiritual search, he continued his secondary education in Korea and later studied electrical engineering in Japan.

He began his public ministry in Communist-occupied North Korea by sharing new insights into God’s Will and Jesus’ mission. Communist authorities imprisoned the young preacher in the late 1940s, severely tortured him, and sentenced him to the infamous Hungnam labor camp, where he remained until 1950, when authorities released him due to the advance of UN forces.

Reverend Moon founded the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity (HSA-UWC), which subsequently became known as the Unification Church, in 1954 in Seoul, Korea. His teachings, known as the Divine Principle, draw upon biblical truths and Eastern wisdom to present a comprehensive view of God’s ideal plan for humanity, the cause of sin, and the history of God’s work to restore the lost ideal.

Nurturing a growing community of faithful disciples in Korea and Japan, Reverend Moon sent missionaries to the United States in 1959. He married Hak Ja Han in 1960 in the first of the sacred wedding ceremonies that have become the hallmark of the couple’s ministry. Unificationists believe Reverend and Mrs. Moon have succeeded in becoming the first True Parents, having established a God-centered family and lineage. During the 1960s, large numbers of people joined the movement in Korea and Japan, and missionaries brought the message from America to Europe as well.

Reverend Moon views the United States as a microcosm of humanity uniquely positioned to advance world peace. He and Mrs. Moon came to the country in 1971 to spread his optimistic vision and stimulated a period of rapid growth in the movement throughout the early 1970s. Central to this vision was the promise of an enhanced personal relationship with God through individual devotion, "blessed marriage," and intercultural families dedicated to bringing peace to the world.

For more than three decades Reverend Moon has been attracting collaborators through conferences that engage participants from all races, religions, and cultures. His ideas have captured the imagination of thousands of clerics, academics, and community activists, who form the core of the Universal Peace Federation founded by Reverend Moon in 2005 as his culminating and overarching peace organization.

Reverend and Mrs. Moon are the parents of 14 children and have more than 40 grandchildren. Their peace mission has been advanced prominently in recent years through the participation of three generations of their family in speaking tours across the world.


Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon


Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon has dedicated her life to the quest for peace. Along with her husband, she has worked with heads of state, Nobel Peace Prize winners, religious leaders and internationally renowned artists.

In 1968, Reverend Moon established the Professors World Peace Academy in Korea, and in 1972 the first International Conference on the Unity of the Sciences was held. These and similar organizations have attracted the participation of scholars, scientists and leaders in the fields of religion, the media, government and the arts, including numerous Nobel Laureates. Mrs. Moon played a crucial role in all of these developments, where her compassionate friendship completes her husband’s challenging vision.

Through addressing informal gatherings of women at these activities, she began to make her appearance in the public sphere. Her addresses included an Address to the Women of the World Media Conference (October, 1981) and an Address to the Women of the International Conference on the Unity of the Sciences (November, 1981)

She is the recipient of many international honors and awards. For her humanitarian work and for her contribution to world peace, she has received honorary doctorates from Argentina’s La Plata University and the University of Bridgeport, Connecticut. In addition she received the Medal of Brazil from that country’s Ministry of Education.

Reverend and Mrs. Moon share a great love of the outdoors. Fishing is one of their favorite pastimes. She was also instrumental in the creation of the Deer Park Equestrian Center in upstate New York, which boasts one of America’s finest arenas for equestrian competitions.

They are lovers and patrons of the arts. Several decades ago they founded the Little Angels Performing Arts School in Seoul, Korea. Its ballet corps, called the Little Angels Children’s Folk Ballet, has performed before world leaders and royalty.

They are also patrons of the New York City Symphony, which the New York Daily News acclaimed as "one of America’s finest orchestras".

Reverend Moon and his wife recently founded the Universal Ballet Academy in Washington, DC, which trains young dancers in the Russian style with masters from the Kirov Ballet of St. Petersburg. Dancers from the school recently won an unprecedented number of gold medals in international competition. The Universal Ballet Company, which they founded, is now a preeminent classical troupe.

Reference Family Federation for World Peace web-site

Further History



1920: Beginnings

Sun Myung Moon was born on January 6, 1920 (lunar date), into a family of farmers that had tilled the land for centuries. As a boy he studied at a Confucian school and was a keen observer of the natural world. Around 1930, his parents became fervent Christians, and the young Sun Myung Moon became a Sunday school teacher.

At that time, Japan ruled Korea. Growing up oppressed in his own land, Sun Myung Moon learned early the pain of injustice, whether among his own people or at the hands of the Japanese rulers.

As a young man, he became intensely aware of human suffering and the failure of humanity to create a loving and just world. He sought to understand why people suffer and how suffering can be ended. From going to church, he knew that religion addressed the fundamental human condition and promised an ideal world to those who obey God.

He also saw that established religions, although centuries old and based on scriptures offering revelatory insights, were, in practice, unable to answer many of life’s questions or solve the deepest problems facing humankind.

Troubled by the immense gap between religious ideals and the actual state of the world, he began his own ardent pursuit of solutions through a life of prayer and study.

Early Easter morning 1935, Jesus appeared to Sun Myung Moon as he was praying in the Korean mountains. In that vision, Jesus asked him to continue the work which he had begun on earth nearly 2,000 years before. Jesus asked him to complete the task of establishing God’s kingdom on earth and bringing peace to humankind. The young Korean was stunned. After deep reflection, meditation and prayer, he pledged to take on the overwhelming mission.

After personally accepting that call from Jesus, Rev. Moon set out to discover its meaning. If Jesus wanted him to complete his mission, it meant that Jesus’ mission was incomplete.

Was not salvation through the cross all that humankind needs? What was it that Jesus had left undone on earth? If sin is not completely solved, then what is the actual root of sin? What was God’s plan for all the world’s religions?

Rev. Moon ceaselessly studied the Bible and other religious teachings in order to unravel these mysteries of life and human history. He came to understand God’s own suffering and His longing to be reunited with His children. He learned the difficult steps that humankind would have to take in order to return to God and establish true peace.

He intensified his quest for the truth, spending days and nights in passionate prayer, rigorous fasting and study. His method was to posit specific questions, research answers in the physical and spiritual worlds, and then seek confirmation for those answers through prayer.

On several occasions he was guided directly by Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha and other saints and sages of all faiths, who met him in spirit and contributed to his understanding of God and the complex history of God’s relationship with humankind.


Rev. Moon’s birthplace in Sangsa-ri, North Pyeongan Province, now part of North Korea


Jesus appeared to Sun Myung Moon as he was praying in the Korean mountains early Easter morning in 1935


Rev. Moon (left) and an early photo of Rev. Moon (on the right)


A korean laborer assisting Japanese troops coming ashore in 1904. Japanese civilians look on


1941: Japan

After high school graduation, Rev. Moon went to Japan to study electrical engineering at an industrial college affiliated with Waseda University. A school friend during that time said that in his room he kept three Bibles-one in Korean, one in English and one in Japanese, which he studied continuously.

He also was a Christian leader in the Korean independence movement against the Japanese occupation of Korea.
Young Christians and communists were its strongest leaders. In Japan, some of his closest school friends were communists, and while their atheism pained him, he recognized their sincere dedication to a utopian ideal.

A fellow student at that time, Duk-moon Aum, reports that Rev. Moon defended communists to his Christian friends, saying that they were good people and that Koreans should work together to save their country.
He was eventually arrested and jailed by the Japanese for his student underground activities and tortured for not revealing the names of his collaborators. This imprisonment was what would be his first of six imprisonments under four governments: Japan, North Korea, South Korea and the United States.

In spite of such treatment by the Japanese, his cousin and companion at the time reports that Rev. Moon showed only love and respect toward Japanese people. When the war ended in August 1945, he persuaded others not to take revenge on local Japanese officials and worked secretly to get some safe transport back to Japan.


With a youth group – Rev. Moon, top, second from right


As a young man, Rev. Moon taught Sunday School. Here he is front row, third from left

1945: Ministry

By 1945 he had systemized his teachings, which came to be known as the Divine Principle, and he began his public ministry. The Divine Principle is the fundamental teaching of Rev. Moon and the Unification Church.

Korea, although an Asian country, is recognized as having perhaps the most fervent Christian faith of any nation. Rev. Billy Graham was so impressed by the spiritual vitality of her churches during his first visit to Korea that he predicted that one day Korea would send missionaries to revive the West. In this atmosphere of fervent Christianity, Rev. Moon’s original plan was not to start a separate denomination but to work with other Christians to build God’s kingdom on the earth.
He worked hard to introduce his new insights to existing Korean Christian churches, but they were not well received. American Christian missionaries disregarded him as an unschooled "country preacher." Korean ministers, jealous of the young man’s impact on their congregations’ members, accused him of espousing false teachings. Rev. Moon soon realized that he was headed down the lonely path of a pioneer religious visionary.

In 1946 Rev. Moon received God’s call to go to communist North Korea to preach. Before World War II, the center of Korean Christian activity was Pyongyang, now the capital of North Korea; it was called the "Jerusalem of the East." Among the spirit-filled churches were many with strong messianic expectations. Some of these churches had received revelations that the Messiah would be born in Korea, and they were directed in various ways to prepare to receive him.

He began to teach publicly, despite the dangers presented by the communist-dominated government. As a controversial preacher, Rev. Moon was an easy target. He was one of the first religious figures to be imprisoned by the communists.


Deep in prayer – early ministry days


Inspecting the first printed copies of The Divine Principle in 1965

1948: Death Camp

In April 1948, he was arrested a second time and sentenced to five years hard labor in Heungnam prison, a camp where prisoners were deliberately worked to death. Few lasted more than six months. Rev. Moon, however, survived for nearly three years. Many of his fellow prisoners looked to him for spiritual strength and became his disciples.

On June 25, 1950, the North Korean army invaded the South in a lightning attempt to unify the entire peninsula by force. UN and American forces, under Gen. Douglas MacArthur, rescued the beleaguered South.
One month after the capture of Seoul, UN and ROK forces reached the gates of Heungnam prison. The camp was liberated just hours before Rev. Moon’s scheduled execution.

Rev. Moon did not immediately flee to the South with the other prisoners. Instead, he returned to Pyongyang and spent forty days searching for his scattered flock. He eventually found a few members and then traveled south on foot with two of them. One of his followers had a broken leg and protested that he would slow the party down. Rev. Moon insisted on bringing him and for the long trek alternately pushed him on a bicycle or carried him on his back.


As the American forces depart, the Heungnam docks were blown up to prevent their use by the advancing North Korean forces


The Heungnam camp where Rev. Moon was imprisoned. Inmates were forced to load heavy bags of caustic chemical fertilizer

1950: Busan Church

As one of hundreds of thousands of war refugees, Rev. Moon arrived in the southern port city of Busan. At that time, he told his small following that one day the message of the Divine Principle would be spread all over the world. Even to his closest followers, that prediction sounded unbelievable.


With the first group of members at the shack they constructed from GI ration boxes in Busan

1954: Seoul

On May 1, 1954, in Seoul, Rev. Moon founded the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity-the faith community which became popularly called the "Unification Church."

The church immediately attracted followers from Ewha University, a major Christian women’s school closely linked with the government and Protestant denominations. Because many students were joining, the school sent professors to investigate. When several professors also joined, instead of sincerely welcoming this new church, the school persecuted it.

At the same time, alarming news stories abounded. Rev. Moon was thrown in jail, to be released weeks later when no charges could be verified. His release, however, received scant notice in the press.

Amid this severe persecution, Rev. Moon nurtured a growing community of faithful disciples, known as the "weeping church." By 1957, churches were established in thirty Korean cities and towns.

In the late 1950s, the first international missionaries were sent, one to neighboring Japan in 1958 and two to the United States in 1959.


Young Hak Ja Han Moon


With students, graduates and professors from Ewha University

1960: Holy Wedding

On March 16, 1960, Rev. Moon was blessed in holy marriage to Hak Ja Han. Their blessing was followed by a series of group marriage blessing ceremonies for their followers. As a child, Hak Ja Han and her mother, a devout Christian, had also fled south during the Korean War. Since their marriage, Mrs. Hak Ja Han Moon has dedicated herself entirely to supporting her husband and his mission. With a life of unwavering devotion, courage and dignity, she has stood by her husband through every hardship, borne 14 children and is the grandmother of more than 45 grandchildren.


On March 16, 1960, Rev. Moon was blessed in holy marriage to Hak Ja Han

1971: To America

In 1971, God directed Rev. Moon to expand his ministry to the world level by going to the United States. He expressed gratitude for America’s role in liberating his homeland. But he also knew that God expected much more from this land that had been so richly blessed. It was clear to Rev. Moon that America had drifted from its original ideals.

The 1972 "Day of Hope" speaking tour began February 3 in Alice Tully Hall in New York and went on to seven major US cities.

The Unification Church had centers in ten states, and in 1972 pioneer leaders were sent out to the forty remaining states to found Unification Church centers.

In the same year, evangelical bus teams went state by state in a membership campaign, and thousands of young people accepted his message and dedicated themselves to the Unification Church.

After the very successful Madison Square Garden event on September 18, 1974, public speeches were given and events hosted for thousands of society’s leaders in all fifty states.


Rev. Moon departs Korea for a world tour, 1965


Speaking at Yankee Stadium, NY

1976: God Bless America

To date this was the greatest religious rally ever assembled in Washington, D.C. An estimated 300,000 people of all creeds and colors came to hear him speak at the "God Bless America Festival" on September 18, 1976. At this historic rally, Rev. Moon called upon America to fulfill its blessing as one nation under God, and to create "one world under God." He referred to himself as a "doctor" or a "fire fighter" from the outside who has come to help America meet its third great "test" as a nation, that of "God-denying" communism, and to revive its religious heritage.


300,000 people came to hear Rev. Moon speak at the "God Bless America Festival" on Sep. 18, 1976 in Washington DC

1978: Home Church

In 1978, Rev. Moon called members from around the world to England, where he gave them daily guidance and sent them around the country in a grass-roots community service initiative called "home church." This grass-roots service outreach approach quickly spread around the world.


Promoting of "Home Church" in England, 1978

1983: Trial in the US

Under strong pressure from a few politicians the United States government launched official investigations of Rev. Moon involving multiple federal and state agencies. Hearings were conducted on Capitol Hill to warn of the dangers of new religious movements.

Meanwhile, a five-year Internal Revenue Service investigation finally produced an indictment against Rev. Moon. The outcome of the trial seemed a foregone conclusion. He was convicted and sentenced to spend eighteen months in a federal prison.

In the meantime, protests were being made all around the nation over the injustice Rev. Moon was suffering.

Upon his release, major Christian and civil rights leaders, including Rev. Jerry Falwell of the Moral Majority and Rev. Joseph Lowery of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, publicly decried the treatment and imprisonment of Rev. Moon.

Rev. Moon founded the Unification Theological Seminary (UTS) in Barrytown, NY. It is now a fully accredited graduate school offering Master’s Degrees in Divinity and Religious Education. Faculty members have belonged to a broad range of religious denominations.

UTS has hosted much dialog, starting with the New Ecumenical Research Association and continued with other initiatives, such as the Assembly of the World’s Religions.

A key social teaching of Rev. Moon is that the world’s most difficult problems will be best solved by religious leaders working interreligiously rather than by purely political and economic initiatives.


Rallies for religious freedom were held across the country


Rallies for religious freedom were held across the country

1990: Healing the Past

In 1990, Rev. Moon fulfilled a remarkable pledge he had made in 1976 that one day he would organize a "great rally for God in Moscow." He and Mrs. Moon met with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. Since the fall of the Soviet Empire, Rev. Moon has initiated numerous activities to assist former communist countries in their transition to democracy and freedom.

Rev. Moon traveled to North Korea in 1991, and met with President Kim Il Sung, under whose regime he had been tortured and sent to a labor camp. He was permitted to return to his hometown and the house of his birth, placing flowers on the graves of his parents for the first time, and embracing proud and tearful surviving relatives.


Rev. and Mrs. Moon met with former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, 1990


Rev. and Mrs. Moon met with former President Kim Il Sung in North Korea, 1991