Rev. Moon, famous and uniquely Korean, is ill

Wall Street Journal / Asia

Though he doesn’t get much attention at home, Rev. Moon Sun-myung is likely the most famous Korean in the world, except perhaps for the North’s dictator. The news that the 92-year-old head of the Unification Church is hospitalized with pneumonia made the front page of only a few South Korean newspapers on Thursday. …

Rev. Sun Myung Moon in Seoul, South Korea / AP

Mr. Moon in the 1950s started the Unification Church and rooted it in Judeo-Christian teachings but with one important twist – he preached that he represented the Second Coming of the Messiah promised in the Bible.
While he built connections with powerful political and religious leaders around the world, that claim has always made Mr. Moon a controversial figure.

Beyond all those controversies, Mr. Moon has lived a fascinating life, one that is uniquely a product of Korean history and culture. He was born in what is now North Korea and his family suffered at the hands of Japan’s colonization of the peninsula. When he was a teenager, five younger siblings died from starvation in one year. As a young adult in the late 1940s, he was thrown into a labor camp by North Korea’s budding communist leadership, which was unnerved by religious leaders like him. …

Through it all, however, Mr. Moon in his teachings and writings promoted Korea’s importance in the world, perhaps more than any other figure in his lifetime. … “In the past, everything we loved was taken away from us,” he wrote in [his 2010 autobiography]. “During Japan’s forced occupation, our country was taken away. Our country was split in two, and we were forcibly separated from our loving parents and siblings. So Korea became a land of tears.” But he wrote there is “deep meaning” to that history: “Because it has endured suffering and difficulty for such a long time, Korea can now become the central nation from which God brings peace to the world.”


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