BIOGRAPHY of REV. SUN MYUNG MOON
A brief description of Reverend Moon's life part 2: The early ministry
1941-43: Education, Imprisonment and Torture in Japan
In 1941, Rev. Moon graduated from high school and went to Japan to study electronic engineering at an industrial college affiliated with Waseda University. During his time in Japan, he continued his intense prayer and search for the truth. 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 the strongest leaders of the independence movement against the Japanese occupation. 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, Aum Duk-Moon, reports that Reverend 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 imprisoned 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.
1943-46: Return to Korea, Outreach to Christian Churches, Imprisonment and Torture
In 1943, Reverend Moon returned to his native land.Upon returning from Japan, Reverend Moon was married to Sang Il Choi, a strong Christian from a well-known Presbyterian family.
In 1944, Reverend Moon was again arrested and severely tortured by the Japanese occupation government in Korea after his name came up in the interrogation of a communist student friend who had been active in the anti-Japanese underground in Tokyo. He refused to confess and was finally released. In spite of such treatment by the Japanese; his cousin and companion at the time reports that Reverend Moon showed only love and respect to 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 them safe transport back to Japan.
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 Reverend Moon and the Unification Church.
Korea, although an Asian country, is recognized having perhaps the most fervent Christian faith of any nation. Reverend 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, Reverend 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 revelations to existing Korean Christian churches. But his new teachings 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 congregation members, accused him of espousing false teachings. Despite his many efforts to reach out to established Christian churches, they did not respond to his new ideas. Reverend Moon soon realized that he was headed down the lonely path of a pioneer religious visionary.
In 1946 while buying rice for his family, Reverend Moon was told by God to leave his family without notifying them and go to communist North Korea to preach.
1946-50: Preaching in Communist North Korea, Imprisonment in a "Death Camp" and Escape to the South
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 poor preacher with new interpretations of the Bible, Reverend Moon was more vulnerable than leaders of the established churches and was, therefore, one of the first religious figures to be imprisoned by the communists.
Charged with disturbing the social order, in November 1946, the young minister was imprisoned and tortured. The police believed him to be dead and tossed his body into the prison yard. Some of his followers found him and carried him away to tend to his broken body. Miraculously, Reverend Moon survived and regained his strength. Undaunted, he began preaching in public once again.
In April 1948, he was arrested a second time and sentenced to five years of hard labor in Hungnam prison. He was among the first of the Christian ministers sent to the Soviet-style North Korean gulag.
Hungnam prison camp
Hungnam was an extermination camp where prisoners were deliberately worked to death. Few lasted more than six months. Yet in that horrific concentration camp, Reverend Moon survived for nearly three years. Although he did not speak a word of the Divine Principle, 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 forces reached the gates of Hungnam prison. Knowing the UN forces were near, the communist prison authorities began to execute the prisoners. The prison camp was liberated by UN forces just hours before Reverend Moon's scheduled execution.
Despite his brutal prison camp experience, Reverend Moon did not immediately flee to the South. Instead, he returned to Pyongyang and spent forty days searching for the members of 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. Reverend Moon insisted on bringing him and for the long trek either pushed him on a bicycle or carried him on his back.
1950: Evangelization Begins Anew in the Refugee City of Pusan, South Korea
The first church (Pusan)
As a one of hundreds of thousands of war refugees, Reverend Moon arrived in the southern port city of Pusan, where he and one disciple built the first Unification Church from discarded army ration boxes. At that time, he told his small following that one day the message of the Divine Principle would be spread all over the world. He prophesied that people from all over the world would venerate that hillside. Reverend Moon's predictions sounded unbelievable. Today, in fact, tens of thousands of people make a pilgrimage to the spot.
Beginning his evangelization work in the South after nearly five years in the North, Reverend Moon was rejoined by his wife. However, he continued to dedicate himself night and day to his religious mission. She could not accept his dedication to the mission at the sacrifice of his family. Finally she filed for divorce, in spite of Reverend Moon's strong opposition to a divorce and efforts to dissuade her. (His only child from this marriage and his family are loyal followers of Reverend Moon.)
1954: The Founding of the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity (known as the Unification Church)
Church in Seoul
On May 1,1954, in Seoul, Reverend Moon founded the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, Reverend Moon's faith community which became popularly called the "Unification Church‚Äù worldwide.
The church immediately attracted followers from a major Christian women's university, Ewha University, a school closely linked with the Korean government and with the mainline Protestant denominations. Because many students were joining the church, the school sent professors to investigate. When several professors also joined, instead of sincerely welcoming this new church, the school persecuted it. The university president ordered the professors and students to either leave the church or leave the school.
Coincidentally, newspapers in Seoul suddenly began to print alarming stories about the Unification Church, sex orgies and Reverend Moon being a North Korean agent. Reverend Moon was thrown in jail, to be released weeks later when no charges could be found. Again the following year he was thrown in jail on charges of evading the military draft, even though during the time in question he had been in Hungnam prison. After several months confinement--and sensational media coverage--the charges were dropped. His release received scant notice in the press. Thus began the pattern of collusion between religious leaders, government and the media that to this day suppresses Reverend Moon and his church.
Amid this severe persecution, Reverend Moon nurtured a growing community of faithful disciples, known as the "weeping church‚Äù because of the tearful prayers of Reverend Moon and his followers. By 1957, churches were established in thirty Korean cities and towns.
1958-59: First Missionaries Sent to Japan and the United States
In the late 1950s, the first international missionaries were sent, one to neighboring Japan in 1958 and two to the United States in 1959.