The Korean Religious Heritage Korea’s religious heritage has contributed to the teaching of the Unification Church. Since it first appeared on Korean soil and was nourished by the Korean philosophy of life, the new movement was naturally influenced to some extent by its environment. Just as Eastern Orthodoxy cannot be understood apart from Christian Hellenism, and Roman Catholicism is a product of Latin civilization, so the Unification Church greatly profited from the religious development of its homeland. Korea’s indigenous religion, like that of most early cultures, was a form of shamanism. This original faith has never completely disappeared and still exerts considerable influence. Ancient Koreans believed in a variety of supernatural spirits, both good and evil.
But more important was the one supreme Spirit, Hanan im, the creator and beneficent ruler over creation. This high God was worshipped at mountain shrines; and to win his favor animal sacrifices were offered at appropriate times. Springtime and harvest festivals were particularly important. For more details, one can look at my book entitled Faiths of the Far East.
1 For our purposes, it is merely necessary to point out that from time immemorial Koreans believed in the existence of one Lord of heaven and earth as well as numerous lesser spirits. From earliest times Koreans have experienced direct contact with supernatural powers. Furthermore, shamanism emphasized Korea’s unique role in history. Traditionally, Koreans dressed in white, because this symbolized their faith that they were children of the divine light. For centuries the shamans taught that Koreans had been chosen for a special purpose in God’s plan for mankind. One should therefore not overlook the religious dimension of Korean nationalism.
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Then, as Buddhism spread from India across East Asia, it was planted in Korea. For a thousand years, Mahayana Buddhism, which came via China, was the court religion and popular faith of the Korean monarchy. Numerous Buddhist temples were erected at government expense. Monks and nuns became a normal feature of Korean society. Education and the fine arts were inspired by Buddhist teachings. Powerful abbots were advisors to the king as well as being the teachers of conventional morality.
It would be impossible to exaggerate the religious, ethical and cultural effect which a millennium of Buddhist life and thought had on the Korean mind and heart. What were some of Mahayana Buddhism’s lasting contributions to Korean religion? Let me mention five. First, Buddhism is a religion which stresses the need for salvation. According to Gautama’s four-fold truth, every man suffers because of his insatiable desires. Men find themselves caught in a ceaseless craving for pleasure which inevitably results in disappointment, pain, frustration and emptiness. What Buddhism offers is a way to escape this meaningless merry-go-round.
Secondly, according to Buddha, liberation or enlightenment can only be achieved as a result of self-discipline and self-denial. There is no easy way out of the human predicament. An individual must curb his sensuous desires and master his body. Gradually but vigorously he must extinguish the craving for physical pleasures. To accomplish this, Buddhists have to practice strenuous moral and intellectual disciplines. Thirdly, Mahayana Buddhism reinforces the stem ethic of Gautama’s teachings with a vivid eschatology.
Those who live morally here on earth will be rewarded by the bliss of the Pure Land Paradise. But those who violate the moral commandments will be punished in hell until they have paid for their folly. At least in popular Buddhism (that taught to the laity), the promise of heavenly reward and the threat of hell’s torments have been an important stimulus to ethical behavior. Fourthly, Mahayana Buddhism emphasizes the supreme value of self-sacrifice. The highest ideal is to be a Bodhisattva. A Bodhisattva is one who has earned the right to enjoy the peace of Nirvana but willingly foregoes that final goal in order to continue helping his fellowmen along the upward path.
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So the noblest moral values for the Buddhist are those of self-denial, compassion and sacrificial love. Finally, Mahayana Buddhists look forward to the arrival of a new Buddha (Maitreya) who will appear on earth at the last days to renovate the entire creation and bring inner peace to all mankind. This eschatological hope has always been part of traditional Korean Buddhism and has been particularly prominent in periods of social turmoil. Throughout Korea one can see huge monoliths carved with human heads called Mir yucks.
Probably these are very ancient, predating the Buddhist mission to Korea, but for centuries they have been interpreted as reminders of the Buddha-to-come. Gradually Buddhism degenerated, mainly because of its immense wealth and alliance with the government. When the Yi dynasty was established in 1392, as part of its program of reform, the king abolished the Buddhist state religion. In its place, he put Confucianism. Hence for about five hundred years Confucianism served as the official faith of the Korean nation. Confucian temples were erected with state funds.
Confucian scholar-officials were given charge of all government functions. The teachings of Master Kung were made the basis for education. One became eligible for public office by passing exams on the Confucian classics. Family life was regulated by the ideal of filial piety. Ancestor worship served as a major factor in the life of all citizens.
And jean (human-heartedness) was exalted as the highest moral ideal. Confucianism was valuable for at least four reasons. For one thing, it reinforced the natural importance of the family. Master Kung taught a family-centered ethic. Just as brothers and sisters belong to a single family and are guided by the love of their parents, so the entire nation should act like a big family based on filial piety, fraternal affection and parental responsibility. The ruler should think of himself as the father of his subjects, and all officials should treat the citizenry like younger brothers.
A stable society must be founded upon respect for one’s superiors, reverence for parents, loyalty among friends and concern for the underprivileged lower classes. In the second place, Confucianism corrected the Buddhist monastic ideal. For Buddhists the ideal man or woman is a monk or nun, someone who has abandoned society for the sake of personal salvation. This notion was both other worldly and individualistic. By contrast, the Confucian exalted the responsible public servant. Confucianism is society-oriented.
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According to this view, a man is truly human when he faithfully carries out his obligations to his fellowmen. Thirdly, the family-centered ethic of Confucianism produced a metaphysic based upon polarity. Man exists in a harmonious system of relationships. Using the ancient Chinese concept of yin-yang, Confucians stressed the fact that individuals achieve happiness as they subject their personal desires to the greater good of the whole. This principle of polarity can be seen operating at every level of society: a husband’s care for his wife, a wife’s loyalty to her husband, the respect of children for parents, friendship among equals and obedience to one’s superiors. Fourthly, Confucians looked forward to the final goal of history.
According to the Classics, mankind is moving toward an age of justice, brotherhood, prosperity and peace on this earth. Let me correct a mistaken notion. Probably you have read books which claim that the Judeo-Christian view of history is quite different from that of the Oriental. Whereas Asians deny that history has meaning or purpose, the Biblical view is that history has a goal, we are told.
Oriental philosophy of history is cyclical and therefore pessimistic while Western philosophy of history is linear and optimistic. However, Confucianism holds a very purposive interpretation of history. Like the Judeo-Christian religion, it speaks of an ideal golden age in the distant past and a golden age at the end of history. For the Confucian the goal of history is called ‘ta-tung’: the age of Grand Unity.
History progresses through three stages: a past era of disorder, a present era of relative peace and a future utopia of universal harmony. Hence, men can have hope because ‘ta-tung’ will come on earth in the last days. In the past, European writers on religion contrasted the light which Christianity brought with the earlier period of pagan darkness. Recent historians have corrected that simplistic interpretation of the pre Christian West. The world into which Christianity came was not just sunk in sin. Quite the opposite.
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Graeco-Roman civilization provided a useful foundation upon which the Christian church could be erected. Greek philosophy was a valuable preparation for Christian theology. Stoic morality was helpful in creating a Christian social ethic. Pagan mystery religions prepared the soil for planting the Gospel.
Similarly when Christian missionaries came to Korea they were inclined to disparage the older, established faiths. Confucianism was un modern and repressive, they said. Ancestor worship was condemned. The Confucian ethic was denounced for its merely humanistic base, its oppression of women and its unprogressive veneration of the past. Buddhism was criticized for idolatry and other worldly asceticism. Shamanism was ridiculed as superstition and occultism.
However, in recent years several Christian scholars have begun to see the positive aspects of Korea’s religious heritage. 2 If Graeco-Roman civilization was a preparation for the Gospel in the West, shamanism, Buddhism and Confucianism prepared for Christianity in the East. Unification theology therefore deeply appreciates the many ways God has inspired and guided the religious quest of Koreans throughout their long history. 1 Y. O. Kim, Faiths of the Far East (1976), pp.
173-182. 2 Cf. Tongshik Ryu, ‘Religions of Korea and the Personality of Koreans’ in H. S.
Hong, ed. , Korea Struggles for Christ (1973), pp. 148-165. Also S.
J. Palmer, Korea and Christianity (1967).
Korean Christianity Korean Christianity has had a strange, troubled and yet remarkable history. As a result, there is now a higher percentage of Christians in Korea than in any nation on the East Asian mainland. When the followers of Patriarch Nestorius of Constantinople were excommunicated by the ecumenical councils of the fifth century, they fled eastward, establishing churches which thrived for many centuries in Iraq, Iran, India and China. In the year 1000 Nestorian missionaries were still at work in Manchuria and Korea.
A Nestorian cross and other Christian objects dating from the eleventh century were discovered in Korea after World War II. 3 However, gradually the Nestorian Christian community was swallowed up by the unfriendly environment. Another notable contact of Koreans with Christianity came in 1592 when Toyo tomi Hideyoshi sent Japanese armies to invade Korea. Portuguese Jesuits had set up missions in Japan and won many thousands of converts to the Catholic faith. One of Hideyoshi’s generals was a Christian named Ko nishi. After capturing Seoul, he invited a Jesuit missionary and a Japanese priest to conduct services at his army camps.
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They spent a year in Korea before being recalled to Japan. The Japanese invasion was finally turned back. It is doubtful if the missionary work accomplished anything. However, hundreds of Korean war prisoners were sent to Japan and some of these became devout Catholics. When the Japanese government began to persecute Christians a few years later, several Korean Christians were martyred.
From 1614 to 1629 there are public records of Korean Catholics in Japan being killed. The founder of modern Korean Christianity was a scholarly young nobleman named Yi Pyok. In 1777 a group of Confucian scholars met at an isolated Buddhist monastery to discuss philosophy. Among the books they read were some obtained from Peking about the Catholic religion. Yi Pyok was so impressed by these Jesuit tracts that he became a Christian and set aside the seventh day of each week for prayer. Yi talked about his new faith with a few close friends and made arrangements to learn more about the Catholic religion.
The government sent a yearly delegation to the Chinese imperial court. A friend of Yi, Yi Seung-Hoon, accompanied them to Peking, learned more about Christianity and was baptized by a missionary. He came back with Jesuit books, rosaries and crucifixes for Yi Pyok who was baptized by Yi Seung-Hoon. Thus the two men were equally important in founding Korean Christianity. Many nobles took an interest in Catholicism and some notable converts were made. Once this group had studied the Chinese books, they decided to set up their own church.
One man was elected bishop and four were chosen to be priests. A house in Seoul was rented for a meeting place. When these Christians got in contact with the bishop of Peking, he told them that their priests had been un canonically chosen and should not administer the sacraments. But he did praise their zeal and sent them more books. The Korean Catholics accepted the bishop’s opinion about their priests. What upset them was the Jesuit’s further order to give up ancestor worship.
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A few obeyed, but many lost all interest in Christianity. The controversy over ancestor worship led to government persecution. A well known scholar and his nephew were arrested and beheaded for burning their ancestral tablets. Other Christians were imprisoned.
However, the courage of the martyrs attracted many new converts. By 1794, ten years after the first baptism, there were 4000 Catholics in Korea. The government opposed Christianity because it attacked the Confucian moral system, as the controversy over ancestor worship seemed to prove. Far worse, however, was Christianity’s alleged connection with European politics. Since Catholic missions in Korea were supervised by French priests, it looked as though the new religion was a way for Western imperialists to turn Korea into a European colony. Hence, from 1794 to 1866 there were repeated efforts made by the government to uproot the religion of the ‘barbarian foreigners.’ Even so, in 1860 there remained 16, 700 Catholics in Korea.
When the devout Buddhist Daewongun (Regent) decided to wipe out Catholicism in his country in 1866, many high officials, the king’s nurse and the Regent’s own wife were Christians. Therefore, his brutal acts must be seen as a desperate attempt to preserve Korea’s traditional culture and political independence. The 18 th and 19 th centuries in Asia were a time of aggressive Western imperialism. Korea tried, as China and Japan had done, to protect herself by a policy of isolation. For a time Korea was known as the Hermit Kingdom.
Since Christian missionaries in Asia had often paved the way for European soldiers, one can now see why patriotic nationalists would fear the spread of Christian ideas. French priests were looked upon as agents of French imperialism, particularly as the French were annexing Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia from the Chinese empire in those years. The first Protestant missionary arrived in Korea in 1884. In 1876 the United States had persuaded Korea to make its first treaty with a Western nation.
By this time, Korea was being threatened by Japan on one hand and Russia on the other. Fortunately for the Koreans, the American, British and Canadian missionaries who brought Protestantism to Korea were neither pro-Japanese nor pro-Russian. Quite the opposite. By building schools and hospitals as well as promoting modernization, they strengthened the nation’s will to survive in a time of political peril. For example, Horace Allen, a Presbyterian doctor, was the first resident Protestant missionary. He arrived in Seoul just before a group of reformers attempted to overthrow the government.
Prince Min Young-Ik, a noted conservative statesman, had been almost fatally stabbed by the rebels. Dr. Allen was called upon to save his life. After three months of intensive care, the statesman recovered. This act won the confidence of the king and support of the queen because Prince Min was her nephew.
Dr. Allen served as physician to the foreign diplomats and requested that the king establish a government hospital. This request was granted. Dr. Allen took charge of the new hospital, later became American Consul General (1897) and served as United States Minister Plenipotentiary until the Japanese started to take control of Korea in 1905. Dr.
Allen’s ties with the royal family greatly benefited the Protestant cause. On April 5, 1885, Rev. Horace G. Underwood (Presbyterian) and Rev. and Mrs. Henry G.
Appenzeller (Methodist) arrived at Inchon; Dr. William B. Scranton and his mother (Methodist) arrived a month later and Scranton joined Dr. Allen at the hospital. Evangelistic work was actually begun by these missionaries.
On September 12, 1887, the first Presbyterian church was organized in Seoul with fourteen charter members and on October 9, the Chong Dong Methodist Church was established. A Confucian scholar named Choi, Choi Woo (Choi, Soo Oon), experienced visions, creating a popular new religion which spread across Korea. Claiming to uphold Eastern Learning (Tonghak) against the so-called Western Learning of the Catholic missionaries, Choi taught a syncretistic faith: the ethics of Confucianism, the Buddhist emphasis upon heart cleansing, monotheism, the use of candles from Catholicism and charms from shamanism. This religion was later called Chondogyo.
Choi was arrested and executed, but his followers started an uprising to rid the government of corruption. Their Tonghak army marched on Seoul. China sent troops to quell the rebellion; at the same time the Japanese moved in to take control of the Korean court. During 1894-1895 the Japanese rid Korea of Chinese influence. The old Daewongun came out of retirement and allied himself with the Japanese against his daughter-in-law, Queen Min.
She was later assassinated; the king and crown prince fled to the Russian legation. When King Kojong was at last able to move back into power, he relied on Russian and French help. Japan went to war with Russia in 1904 and took control over Korea’s foreign affairs in 1905. Prince Min committed suicide in despair. King Kojong abdicated two years later. Japan annexed Korea in 1910.
Christians in general and missionaries in particular became directly involved in politics during this period of social unrest. In 1888 the government issued an interdict forbidding Christian missionary work. Catholics had aroused great popular resentment because they had secretly bought land and started to build a cathedral overlooking the palace. Ten years later a Russian Orthodox church was established at Seoul which was widely interpreted as a political move. When thirty-three Korean leaders issued their 1919 Declaration of Independence, sixteen signers were Christians, fifteen were followers of Choi’s Chondogyo religion and two were Buddhists. Missionaries publicized Japanese atrocities committed in Korea by the occupation officials and at least indirectly supported the cause of Korean independence until national liberation took place in 1945.
At the same time, it must be noted that most missionaries and most Korean Christians tried to keep from getting embroiled in politics as best they could. What were the indirect but real effects of Protestant Christianity upon Korean society? Because the missionaries had a Bible-centered faith they encouraged a concern for education. To be a good Protestant, one has to know how to read the Scriptures. Rev. John Ross, a missionary to China, translated the Gospel of Luke into Korean about 1883 and distributed it along the Chinese-Korean border. Mrs.
Mary Scranton established the first school for girls in 1886 with only one student. However, Queen Min supported the school and named it Ewha Hakan, Pear Blossom Institute, in 1887. Rev. Henry Appenzeller opened a school for boys which King Kojong named Pai chai Hak tang, Hall for Rearing Useful Men; and that same year Rev. Horace Underwood 4 organized an orphanage and school as part of his missionary work. Protestantism taught the dignity and worth of each soul.
This emphasis upon personal rights tended to weaken the strong class barriers in the traditional Confucian society. Indirectly at least, missionaries prepared Koreans for a more democratic way of life. Korean Protestantism was dominated by Presbyterian and Methodist missionaries from Britain, Canada and the United States. This meant that their religion was inspired by the stem Puritan ethic. For them, to be a Christian meant not smoking or drinking, working hard, being a responsible citizen and helping the less fortunate.
A church historian has shown how this Protestant ideal corrected the abuses of the Korean social order in the late Yi dynasty. 5 Protestantism arrived in Korea at about the time that the Social Gospel and the ecumenical movement were gaining recognition in the West. Even though the missionaries were apt to be more conservative theologically than some Christians in Europe and America, they realized that Christianity involves much more than saving heathen souls from the flames of hell. For the Methodists and Presbyterians educational missions and ministries of healing were considered necessary adjuncts of evangelism and church building. Also, very early the Korean missionaries agreed upon interdenominational cooperation. Far earlier than most Western Christians they recognized that a divided church cannot restore a broken world.
Hence, in spite of several tragic schisms and the appearance of many new denominations in Korea, thoughtful Christians have supported interdenominational activities. Recently, as in the controversy over civil rights, Protestant and Catholic leaders have worked together. From 1910 to 1945 Korea was subject to Japanese domination. This was a period of considerable stress for Christians. Since Protestants had been active in the abortive 1919 Independence Movement, the Japanese considered them a disruptive and potentially dangerous faction. Presbyterians in particular opposed Japanese plans to control all educational facilities.
Many Protestants were upset over compulsory attendance at certain Shinto shrine ceremonies, arguing that these were religious and not merely patriotic rites. Then there was the government order to unify all the denominations in one church, so that Christian activities could be more effectively supervised by the military occupation authorities. Comparable to the terrible persecution of Christians during the rule of Daewongun was the Japanese persecution of Korean Christians beginning with the assassination of Marquis Ito in 1909. Ito had been Japanese Resident General in Korea and forced the abdication of King Kojong. Ito’s American advisor was killed by a Korean Catholic at San Francisco in 1908. In 1909 Ito himself was assassinated in Manchuria by a Korean Protestant.
According to the Japanese, a plot was uncovered to kill the new Governor General in 1910. A year later, some students and all teachers at a Presbyterian high school were arrested and tortured in connection with this plot. Finally, one hundred twenty-five men, ninety-eight of whom were Christians, were indicted and brought to trial. In spite of false evidence gained under torture, six were sentenced to prison.
Next came the brutal suppression of the 1919 Independence Movement. Since Christian leaders were involved, the military authorities turned on the churches. At Suwon, for example, the Japanese troops surrounded a church filled with believers, set fire to the building and shot those who tried to escape from the burning sanctuary. However, the Independence Movement identified Christianity with Korean nationalism and brought numerous young people into the church. Then came World War II. Over two hundred churches were closed.
More than two thousand Christians were imprisoned and over fifty died for their faith. Of the 700, 000 Protestant Christians on church rolls prior to the war, only about half that number were active as the conflict came to an end. Liberation Day, August 15, 1945, provided a brief occasion for nation-wide rejoicing. However, their joy was short-lived when it was learned that Soviet troops were being used to impose a Communist regime in North Korea.
According to Dr. Samuel H. Moffett, a Presbyterian seminary professor in Seoul, the Communist attack upon organized religion took place in three stages. First, the Communists destroyed two Christian political organizations-the Social Democratic Party and the Christian Liberal Party. Second, the Communists tried to bully the church by setting up a puppet Christian League to which all church officials were required to belong. Finally, when Christian opposition persisted, the Communists tried to destroy the church.
Church buildings were confiscated, pastors were imprisoned, and Christian laymen were often massacred. At least four hundred clergymen were martyred. Consequently, Christians tried to flee south for protection. After the Korean War it was estimated that one in every five persons in South Korea was a refugee from the north. Since Rev. Sun Myung Moon founded the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity in this post-war period, it is important to note several prominent features of Korean Christianity in the 1950’s: 1.
The Christian community doubled in size in the post-war decade. Why did the church spread like wild-fire? Methodist seminary president Harold Hong points out how zealous the Christian laymen were. They had all the enthusiasm and dedication of the twice-born. Most conversions took place at revival meetings following a pattern begun with the great revival at Pyung-yang in 1907 which did so much to stimulate church growth in the north. Praying in unison was one of the powerful characteristics of that revival. Prayer services before dawn and intensive Bible study became a standard part of Christian life.
As Dr. Hong points out, many notable preachers had also received charismatic gifts as a result of mystical experiences and some became famous faith healers. 2. The rapid spread of Christianity in the south was largely due to the influx of refugees from the Communist north. Hence the churches were zealously anti-Communist and determined to reunify the nation.
3. But after a decade of rapid expansion the mainline denominations almost stopped growing. As several sociologists have noted, Methodism, Presbyterianism and Catholicism reached a plateau and more or less stayed at that level. Part of this was due to serious divisions within the church. Presbyterians split into four groups. In 1959 an anti-World Council of Churches group of Presbyterians established a National Association of Evangelicals.
These troubles forced the main Presbyterian body to stop cooperating with the World Council of Churches in order to restore unity. 4. From the earliest days Korean Christianity suffered oppression and persecution. Because of their dire situation, Protestants were especially inspired by the Biblical story of the exodus from Egypt. The Scriptures clearly taught a theology of liberation. Since God had freed the Jews from Egyptian bondage, would He not also liberate them? Consequently, Christians prayed for someone like Moses to rescue them from their oppressors.
It was natural for Koreans to identify their country with the Old Testament history of Israel, whose sufferings proved its unique status in the redemptive purpose of God. Korea was, like Israel, a downtrodden people of faith. Possibly like the Jews, Koreans were being prepared for some special mission in God’s providence. Korean patriotism and the Christian faith were therefore closely related. This idealistic alliance of nationalism and religion was greatly reinforced when North Korea became subjected to the harsh totalitarianism of Kim Il Sung.
5. During the Japanese occupation many Protestants also reemphasized the apocalyptic aspects of the New Testament. Christianity was seen to be a faith based upon eschatological expectancy. The book of Revelation became the most widely read part of Scripture. Thus Christians began to look forward to the Second Advent of Christ and the dawn of the messianic age.
Surely that time was at hand. 6. During and after the Korean War a sizeable number of new religious movements sprang up. Some were Christian in origin and inspiration; others were not.
It was a time of social upheaval and intense spiritual enthusiasm inside the established churches. What then was distinctive about the new groups? Besides sharing the revivalistic atmosphere, intense prayer life and Bible study of many Presbyterians and Methodists, these new movements were able to conduct amazing faith cures and were unusually open to the spirit world. Consequently, they received inspiring messages of a coming new age in salvation history. Their psychic visions of the future often focused upon the unique blessings from God to be showered upon the Korean people, confirming traditional prophecies and bringing to fulfillment the Biblical eschatological promises. Unification Church was born in such a remarkable charismatic environment. For those of us who were in Korea at that time, it was natural to conclude as I did: ‘The long, gloomy cosmic winter has passed, and the cosmic spring for which mankind has been waiting so long has arrived.
The New Age, the Cosmic Era, has begun. 73 A. Clark, History of the Church in Korea, 1971, p. 79. Cf. Kyung Bae Min, The Church History of Korea, Seoul (in Korean) 1972 and Tongshik Ryu, The Christian Faith Encounters the Religions of Korea, Seoul (in Korean) 1965.
4 A. D. Clark, History of the Church in Korea (1971), pp. 92-95. 5 S. J.
Palmer. Korea and Christianity (1967), p. 94. 6 S. H. Moffett, The Christians of Korea (1962), pp.
76-77. ‘H. S. Hong et al, Korea Struggles for Christ, Seoul (1966), p. 16. 7 Y.
0. Kim, The Divine Principles, p. 111 Sun Myung Moon In order to understand the message of Divine Principle it is useful to know something about its messenger. Sun Myung Moon was born in the north Korean village of Jung-ju on January 6, 1920, according to the lunar calendar.
His grandfather was the first to recognize that he was unusually gifted. As a child, Sun Myung Moon would not tolerate injustice or abuse inflicted upon others. Consequently, he was many times ridiculed or even beaten by his older playmates. If he saw adults taking advantage of helpless children, he would become enraged, lying down on the ground, crying loudly, and beating his arms and legs on the floor. Even though his body became bruised, he refused to stop protesting until those guilty admitted their wrongs. Thus, from early childhood he displayed an extraordinary sense of justice and an indomitable will.
He once told me that when he was twelve he would go to a quiet place in the woods to pray. One day after he had prayed, it seemed as if the trees, bushes and grass began to speak: ‘Nobody takes care of us. We feel abandoned by mankind’ Realizing that nature cried out to be loved, he felt like embracing the entire world, vowing, ‘I will be your caretaker.’ At another time he prayed, ‘Father, give me greater wisdom than Solomon, greater faith than the apostle Paul and greater love than even Jesus.’ It was not until the age of sixteen, however, that Sun Myung Moon awakened to his potential mission as a religious leader. Like many Koreans, his parents had become converts to Christianity as the result of Presbyterian missionary activities. At sunrise on Easter morning in 1936, while Moon was deep in prayer, he experienced a mystical encounter with Jesus. In this vision, the Korean teenager was challenged to take up Jesus’ unfinished work and establish the kingdom of God on earth.
Following this mystical experience Sun Myung Moon began an intense search for religious truth. For several years he prayed, studied, listened to what people were saying about religion and pondered deeply the problem of God’s ways with men. Repeatedly he asked himself, What is the ultimate problem-for man, for the whole universe, even for God? In time the answer came. For everything in existence, including God, the central question involves the attainment of love. Sometimes he was tempted to abandon his mission, he has admitted. Since he had enrolled as an electrical engineering student at Waseda University in Japan, it would have been easy to set aside his religious concerns to concentrate upon his future or to limit his extracurricular activities to the struggle for Korean independence.
However, by the age of twenty-five Moon had made up his mind to accept the challenge issued by the risen Jesus and devote his life to realizing God’s kingdom. The next stage in his mission began in 1946, shortly after the end of World War II. Soon after the liberation of Korea from Japanese occupation, Moon felt called to begin preaching at Pyung-yang, the most important city in northern Korea. Pyung-yang had long been one of the strongholds of Christianity and was often called the Jerusalem of the East.
But that city was also the capital for the Communist government which had been imposed upon North Korea by Russian soldiers. Hence, under the most adverse conditions, Moon tried to establish a secure foundation for God’s new dispensation. On one hand he faced opposition from conventional Christians who believed that God’s kingdom had nothing to do with the betterment of this world. On the other hand were the Communists who were determined to eradicate faith in God and establish a totalitarian secular society. When Reverend Moon had acquired a small following, his activities were brought to the attention of the Communist authorities. Naturally he was arrested and subjected to torture.
After a severe beating he was tossed unconscious out into a cold winter night where his body was discovered by his disciples. When he recovered and resumed preaching, Moon was re-arrested and sentenced to a Communist forced-labor camp at the eastern coastal town of Hungnam. Inmates were each assigned to bag and load 130 ninety-pound sacks of lime, an almost impossible daily quota. Overworked and underfed, few prisoners survived more than three months.
But Moon was determined to stay alive. With faith in God and sheer will power he was able to exist under intolerable conditions for about three years, until the prisoners were liberated by United Nations soldiers in 1950. Later, commenting on his prison experiences, Reverend Moon stated. ‘I never prayed from weakness or complained. I never even asked God’s help. Instead, I was always comforting Him, telling Him not to worry about me.
Since God already knew my suffering, I didn’t want to remind Him and cause Him to grieve still more. I just told Him I would never be defeated.’ Moon went back to Pyung-yang to find his disciples. The few still faithful converts were instructed to rejoin him at Pusan on the southern tip of the Korean peninsula. Moon and two disciples started on a bicycle ride over mountain roads for six hundred miles to the south. One of them had a broken leg and had to be carried. After reaching Pusan, Moon joined countless other homeless refugees.
In the summer of 1951 disciples met with him in a small hut, built from U. S. Army ration boxes and dried mud. One of the early followers reports that when Reverend Moon arrived in Pusan, he looked like a poor factory worker, ‘skinny and dirty.’ Besides suffering from Communist oppression, he-like millions of his countrymen-had to undergo the incredible hardships of the refugee camps during the Korean War. In 1953 Reverend Moon moved to Seoul, the capital of the Republic of Korea, and the following year he officially established the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity. An Australian missionary, Rev.
Joseph McCabe, spent eighty days as guest of the Seoul church and published an enthusiastic report in his denomination’s British magazine. Let me quote a few sentences from Pastor McCabe’s article because it shows an outsider’s impressions of the Unification movement in the early days:’ The group of Christians to whom I have come are not Pentecostal or Apostolic as we know it, and yet the Spirit of the Lord is manifest among them, as some have visions, others have tongues and interpretations, while a spirit of prophecy is exercised by others in private. The fervor and sincerity of the worship, the soul-stirring preaching of Mr. Moon, a born orator who stirs his congregation to response both in praying and preaching, is wonderful. Almost without exception the members are there because they longed for something deeper.
The meeting place is an old hall in an out of the way spot… To this hall come between three hundred and four hundred people. There are no seats as in other churches; everyone sits on the floor. Half an hour before the service is due to begin we have a time of singing, and the place is packed… Mr. Yoo (sic), 9 the lecturer, gives lectures on the Principles, as they term their beliefs, for four or five hours each day.’ 10 Reverend McCabe reported also that the movement had eight centers from Seoul to Pusan with a total membership of between six hundred and twelve hundred.
This Australian missionary recognized that his own denomination differed from the Unification Church in some sacramental practices and doctrines; yet he was clearly impressed by the charismatic quality of the Korean movement, its faith in Christ and its determination to overcome the power of a real Satan, as he put it. In North Korea Reverend Moon and his followers were persecuted by the Communists. In the south, Unification members were denounced by the established churches. Reverend Moon was condemned by some Presbyterians as a heretic, even though he had taken little part in that denomination’s life for many years. When a group of professors and students at Ewha Women’s University became followers of Reverend Moon, they were ordered either to leave the movement or be expelled from school. Since this act aroused venomous press criticism as a violation of religious freedom, the opposition began spreading vicious rumors that the new church was guilty of sexual immoralities.
Reverend Moon and four male disciples were jailed as the government tried to substantiate these wild allegations made by his enemies. He was released after three months when the court found him not guilty. His enemies could provide no evidence which would stand up in court. To placate the opposition, the government jailed Reverend Moon for alleged draft evasion. When this case came to trial several months later, he was completely exonerated. In spite of persecution, the Unification Church continued to grow.
In 1958 a missionary was sent to Japan and the following year I came to Eugene, Oregon, as the first missionary to the United States. By 1975 missionary teams had been sent to one hundred and twenty countries. In 1960 Reverend Moon married Hak Ja Han. He and his wife moved to America in 1972, where he had begun nation-wide speaking tours. These culminated in the Madison Square Garden rally. As a result of this American publicity, the foundation was laid for an immense World Rally for Korean Freedom in Seoul at which Reverend Moon spoke to more than one million people on June 7, 1975.
His Yankee Stadium appearance took place on June 1, 1976, and the Washington Monument Rally on September 18, 1976, provided an appropriate finale to Reverend Moon’s public speaking campaigns in the United States. Throughout his life, his motto has been: To restore the world, Let us go forth With the heart of the Father In the shoes of a servant, Shedding sweat for the earth, Tears for man And blood for heaven. 9 Ho-Won Eu. The Apostolic Herald, November, 1956.