The Fall of the House of Moon
Sex rituals, foreign spies, Biden offspring, and the Unification Church’s war-torn first family
By Mariah Blake November 12, 2013
In Jin [Moon] had her own reasons for loosening the church’s mores, as Lorentzen’s on-again, off-again wife, Patricia, discovered. In late 2009, Patricia traveled to New York with their two young sons to visit Lorentzen for Christmas. While they were staying at the New Yorker Hotel, Patricia borrowed Ben’s laptop and found his e-mail box brimming with sexually explicit messages from In Jin. “I was so shocked,” Patricia told me. “I went back to my room and sat there trying to digest it.” She confronted In Jin over e-mail, after which she says Lorentzen and another man turned up at her room and delivered an ultimatum: She and the children had to be out of the hotel by the next morning, or they would be tossed out by security. (In Jin and Ben Lorentzen declined to be interviewed.)
Patricia later tried to alert the church’s liaison for family matters, Phillip Schanker, to the affair, but James Park assured Schanker there was no cause for concern. As Schanker explained in a letter to one parishioner, “In Jin’s husband came to me, thanking me for being honest and trying to protect True Family and our movement, assuring me that this was a misunderstanding, that he trusted his wife, and that the wives of the men she works with easily became jealous and created false rumors.”
Meanwhile, the family feud erupted into open view, as the siblings sparred over billions of dollars in assets in court. And one of In Jin’s deputies traveled the country delivering a PowerPoint presentation that cast Preston as a “fallen” Adam who was “being controlled by Satan.” This was the state of play in early 2012, when In Jin disappeared.
On September 2 of that year, the movement was dealt an even bigger blow, when Moon died of pneumonia at age 92. Two weeks later, some 15,000 people packed into a Moon-owned stadium outside Seoul for the memorial. Mrs. Moon vowed to continue her husband’s quest to build “a world where all people live as one great family under God.” After the service, she and her children knelt above his burial vault, clasped hands, and prayed. Through all of this, In Jin remained conspicuously absent.
It was around this time that a birth certificate for a four-month-old boy began circulating on the Internet. To the astonishment of Moon’s followers, the child’s parents were none other than In Jin Moon and Ben Lorentzen. The baby probably would have come to light sooner had James Park not worked to cover up his existence; according to people close to the family, James helped In Jin rent a house in Cape Cod where she and Ben could lay low during her pregnancy.
Now, on top of mourning their messiah, Moon’s American disciples had to digest the news that his supposedly sinless daughter was trampling his most sacred teachings. “The core of our faith is purity before marriage and fidelity between husband and wife,” longtime church member Mary Anglin told me. “We’ve devoted our lives to this vision. Then In Jin turned around and slapped us all in the face.”
As it turns out, Moon didn’t always live up to his virtuous teachings, either. In April, I spoke by videophone with Annie Choi, a soft-spoken, 77-year-old Korean woman with ruddy cheeks and thick silver hair. Choi, who joined Moon’s church along with her mother and sister in the 1950s, alleges that she engaged in numerous sexual rituals—some involving as many as six women—beginning when she was 17 years old. Her story, which is consistent with the accounts of several early followers, supports the claim that Moon’s church started out as a sex cult, with Moon “purifying” female devotees through erotic rites.
By 1960, when he married Hak Ja Han, Moon was touting marital fidelity as his religion’s foundational ideal. But Choi maintains she stayed on as Moon’s mistress until 1964, when she moved to the United States. The following year, Moon made his inaugural visit to America. By the time he left, Choi says, she was carrying his child.
News like this could have sunk the fledgling American project. But Bo Hi Pak made sure that didn’t happen. According to Choi, who has never before spoken publicly about the experience, Pak’s wife stuffed her mid-section with cloth diapers and pretended that she was pregnant. When it came time to give birth, Choi says that Pak accompanied her to the hospital and passed her off as his wife. The following day, he dropped her off at her empty apartment and took the baby back to his home. Later, Mrs. Pak brought Choi some seaweed soup, but Choi told me that she couldn’t eat it. “I just sat there crying, with my tears falling in the pot.”
Choi stayed in the United States to be near her son, Sam Park—the same young man In Jin had fallen for during her teenage years. (By all accounts, she was unaware that Sam was her half brother.) Then, at age 13, it dawned on Sam that the kindly “aunt” who visited periodically was actually his mother. “Suddenly my life made a lot more sense,” Sam told me in April, when we met in Phoenix, where he and Choi live.
Bo Hi Pak later approached Sam and his mother with a contract. As a sign of their “mutual love, affection and respect,” it read, Sam, Choi, and Pak would release one another—and the Moon family—from “any and all past, present or future actions,” including those arising from inheritance claims. In return, Sam and Choi would each receive $100.
Alleging that they were victims of “theology-based” racketeering, Sam and Choi are now suing the Paks and Moons for $20 million. Neither the Unification Church nor the lawyers for the Moon and Pak families responded to requests for comment.
Sam Park’s existence was an indignity that Mrs. Moon had to endure. But by the time In Jin’s love child came to light, Mrs. Moon’s husband and master was dead and she was free to handle the situation as she saw fit. She demanded that In Jin resign. In Jin later issued an apology to members of the church. “It was never our intention to hurt anyone,” she wrote. “All we wanted was to love and to be loved.”
Next, Mrs. Moon moved to claim the inheritance her husband had promised. She wrested control of the international church from Sean and issued a memo saying, “[E]verything that is carried out in Korea from this day onward will be centered on True Mother.” She later ousted Justin, who controlled most of Moon’s Korean enterprises. After five decades spent in Moon’s shadow, the kingdom was in her hands.
And despite Moon’s views on wifely subservience, it soon became clear that Mrs. Moon did not share all of her husband’s opinions. She began speaking out in surprisingly critical terms about Moon’s preoccupation with America. During a trip to New York late last year, she complained that he had squandered 40 years in the United States for “such little” return. Many members suspect that she will soon turn her back on his beleaguered American project entirely. “Reverend Moon really cared about America,” says Richard Barlow, a former Unificationist missionary, who maintains contact with elements of the church leadership. “But his wife doesn’t feel that strong connection, and she’s ousted her children who do.”
In late February, the matriarch celebrated the arrival of Cheon Il Guk—Moon’s global kingdom of peace and unity—before some 15,000 devotees who packed into the Moon-owned stadium in Korea, wearing identical wedding garb. The crowd sang the Cheon Il Guk national anthem, and then Mrs. Moon, the former cook’s daughter, swept into the stadium wearing a jeweled crown and a purple robe festooned with gold embroidery. She marched slowly up a long stairway to a giant replica of the Moon family palace and took a seat on a white throne. Next to her was an identical throne, reserved for her dead husband. An attendant handed her a “heavenly scepter,” and she climbed to her feet: “I proclaim the first year of Cheon Il Guk.” Trumpets blared, and the stadium filled with mist.
Afterward, several of Moon’s old friends gave congratulatory speeches, including former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, who lauded the festivities as an “affirmation of marriage and family.” “We often take the family for granted,” Hastert said. “However, when the family system begins to break down, all manner of personal and social problems emerge.” It was a fitting epitaph to Moon’s American project and his diminished political empire.