Updated July 9, 2021
▲ The marriage of Hyo Jin Moon (Hyo Jin Nim) and the fifteen-year-old Nansook Hong, officiated by Sun Myung Moon on January 7, 1982. The age of consent was 17 in New York state in 1982, and is the same now.
TIME October 13, 1998
Timehost: “Could you state what the core beliefs of the Unification Church are – so that we’re all clear? How are they different from mainstream Christianity?”
Nansook Hong: “Well, Reverend Moon claims to be the messiah. He claims that Jesus came to him when he was 16. And he says that Jesus says that he failed since he didn’t establish the ideal family. So Jesus had the spiritual foundation. Because he was crucified, he asked Reverend Moon to fulfill the mission that Jesus failed. And Reverend Moon accepted. I think that’s the primary difference. Christians believe that Jesus was the messiah, while Moonies believe that Reverend Moon is the Second Coming [of Christ, the Lord of the Second Advent]. He and his wife are called the True Parents. Reverend Moon is the True Father and his wife is the True Mother. And they are meant to be the perfect family. And they are the ones who are going to teach us true family values and establish the Kingdom of Heaven [on Earth]. Reverend Moon has been proclaiming that he has established his ideal family, and fulfilled his mission, and when I pinpointed that his family is just as dysfunctional as any other family – or more than most – then I think his theology falls apart.”
The full interview is near the end of this page.
Nansook Hong fled from her volatile and abusive husband and the Moon ‘East Garden’ compound in August 1995.
Divorce papers were filed in December 1996.
In December 1997, Nansook Hong was granted a divorce from Hyo-jin Moon, and was given custody of their five children. Hyo-jin was granted visiting rights on condition he passed drug tests. He failed the tests.
On September 13, 1998, in a segment on CBS-TV’s “60 Minutes,” Mike Wallace spoke to Nansook Hong about her 14-year marriage to Hyo-jin Moon, the eldest son of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon. One of Moon’s estranged daughters, Un-jin Moon, broke her long public silence about the dysfunctional “True Family.” Un-jin backed up Nansook Hong’s account and called her “very honest.” Donna Orme Collins also contributed.
On September 21, 1998 Sun Myung Moon spoke at East Garden, but many members felt he failed to address their concerns from “60 Minutes.” The issue of another illegitimate son, Sam Park born in 1966, was a major one. Many members left.
In October 1998 Nansook’s book, In The Shadow Of The Moons: My Life In The Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Family, was published in the U.S. It was also published in French (1998), Japanese (1998) and German (2000 and 2002). Sections of her book have also been published in a 1999 Korean book by Lee Dae-bok, 이대복 (a former member).
Mike Wallace: If you’re a 15 year-old Korean girl and your spiritual leader, your messiah, selects you to marry his son, that is about as close as you can get to heaven on earth. But sadly Nansook Hong’s marriage into the Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s family turned out to be more like hell on earth. As you will hear from her, and from one of Sun Myung Moon’s daughters, Moon himself and some of his children had not always practiced what Moon preaches. His Unification Church stresses no sex outside marriage, no alcohol, no illegal drugs. But Nansook says that is not what she saw after she married the Reverend’s eldest son, Hyo-jin Moon, the young man they call the prince.
Nansook Hong: He was the prince, the prince. He was very abusive, both physically and emotionally. He is alcoholic. He is addicted to drugs.
~~Hyo-jin Moon giving a sermon to church members in 1994.~~
Hyo-jin Moon: After all, isn’t it give and take
Mike Wallace: And, she told us, he was high on cocaine or some other drug when he made this rambling, angry, off-color speech to a church group.
Hyo-jin Moon: I am standing here being judged by you motherf*****s. What the f**k do you judge me by? Huhh.
MW: Nansook didn’t even know Hyo-Jin when she was chosen to marry him, and she certainly didn’t expect a drug addict. She had been brought up believing that the Reverend Moon’s family was without sin.
Nansook Hong: They had a lot of Moon and his family pictures that as a child, as a teenager, we adored, we admired. We looked at those nice smiles and the happy family and we thought that was ideal family.
MW: The Reverend Moon calls his family, the True Family, the perfect family.
Nansook H.: Moon is a perfect human being, he is the only perfect human being on the earth, and he can choose his wife, and his wife then becomes perfect as well, and so his children become perfect because they are from this perfect man and perfect woman.
MW: And so when Moon marries more than a thousand couples at once, as he did in New York last June, he exhorts them to live the high moral life that he, supposedly, exemplifies. The church told us that Moon himself had matched each couple by studying their pictures and brief biographies. And the newly-weds say they want their families to be just as virtuous as his.
Groom: He sets an example as to how to be true parents. The world is in dire need of strong family values. He not only preaches that, but he lives it as well.
Bride: True family, and they bring up children of goodness
MW: And without sin…
Bride: No sin at all, no sin
Bride: No drugs
Bride: No alcohol
Nansook H.: Moon’s theology is that he is perfect man who can create perfect family, I think it kind of falls apart if I look at his children
MW: The Moons gave birth to thirteen children, and various individuals who have been close to them told us, that, in violation of church rules, they have seen some of Moon’s children drink alcohol, smoke, and use illegal drugs. And Nansook soon learned that her husband is the worst of them. She lived with him here at the Moon’s opulent estate north of New York City.
MW: Nansook says the Moons knew all about her husband’s drug problem but still they spoiled him; kept showering him with cash.
Nansook H.: When he needed cash he went to his mum and his mum would give him from $1,000 up to $50,000 and some more
MW: From a $1,000 to $50,000
Nansook H.: Yes, depends. Depends what he asked and what kind of mood the parents are in.
MW: Where did all this cash come from?
Nansook H.: I believe it is mainly coming from Japan. When Japanese leaders come in, they bring cash in, and basically they give to Rev. and Mrs Moon.
MW: And how would his son use those church donations?
Nansook H.: He basically used for his cocaine, his parties, his hostess, bar hopping, all the fun things that a person can do.
MW: Those fun things apparently included mistresses. Hyo-jin told her he was entitled to have affairs because his father had had them. And she says that Reverend Moon himself confirmed, to her, that he had had affairs and the Reverend told her that God wanted him to.
▲ Nansook Hong speaking to Mike Wallace in 1997.
Nansook H.: He told me, in person, that he… he called it providential affairs.
MW: Providential affairs?
Nansook H.: Providential affairs
MW: What does that …?
Nansook H.: It’s providential means that it is God’s mission. So he had to have these affairs, extra-marital affairs, because it was providential, it was God’s mission that he had to fulfill.
MW: Of course Reverend Moon does not tell his followers about that part of God’s mission. Instead he preaches that adultery is a major sin.
Nansook H.: That is the worst sin that Unification Church members could commit, to commit adultery, then you will basically burn in hell forever. That is the one single most worse thing that you can do. But Hyo-jin did it many times and his parents know. But there is nothing they do.
▲ Hyo-jin Moon with two guns and a knife. His father is also holding one of the guns. Nansook said that Hyo-jin had a collection of about 60 guns, some of which he kept in their bedroom. She was fearful of them.
Hyo-jin used money that Mrs Moon had given him, “earmarked for our children’s future, to buy a thirty-thousand-dollar gold-plated gun for his father and motorcycles for himself and his brothers.” … “He would open the gun case he kept in our bedroom and stroke one of his high-powered rifles. ‘Do you know what I could do to you with this?’ he would ask. He kept a machine gun, a gift from True Parents, under our bed.” ( ‘In the Shadow of the Moons’ pages 166 and 182)
MW: But worse than the affairs, she says, the Reverend’s eldest son would beat her. One awful night, she told us, he pummeled her while she was pregnant with her fifth child.
Nansook H.: He was doing his cocaine ritual, and against my better judgement, I went and said I will have to talk to you. I said, I just cannot live like this. And I took his cocaine, and I tried to flush it down the toilet and that is when he started to punch me and I did get black eyes and I got bloody nose. And umm, he… But the big fear was that he was gonna kill the baby I was…
MW: You were carrying…
Nansook H.: I was seven months pregnant and I was pretty big. And he kept saying, “I am gonna kill the baby, I’m gonna kill the baby.” That was the worst fear that I had, that he might punch and then something would happen.
MW: Whenever she told Rev. and Mrs Moon about the beatings, Nansook says, they blamed her.
Nansook H.: I was not ideal wife for Hyo-jin that is why he would behave in a certain way towards me, and I was not a good member of their family – so also it was my fate…
MW: Who told you that? Mrs Moon or …
Nansook H.: Both, both of them, yes. And it was my fate that I have to endure these things.
Un-jin Moon: Sounds familiar
MW: Nansook is getting support from a surprising source, one of Reverend Moon’s daughters, Un-jin Moon. She told us her parents blamed her too, when she was abused by her husband. Did he beat you?
Un-jin Moon: Yes
MW: And you would tell your folks
Un-jin M.: Yes
MW: And they would say…
Un-jin M.: I deserved it
MW: Un-jin Moon is estranged from her parents, but she has never criticized them in public before. She and a close friend, Jeannie Honnerd (spelling?), said that by coming forward they hoped to dissuade people from joining cults. Off camera Un-jin told us that she does not believe that her father is the messiah. On camera she put it this way.
Un-jin M: He is just my father. I think that in itself should say a whole lot.
MW: Un-jin is a Moon, but not a Moonie, not a believer in her father’s church.
Un-jin M: I believe in a God, but I don’t think that I want to belong to one particular denomination now.
MW: What do you think of Nansook? Honest?
Un-jin M: I think she is very honest.
MW: Do you admire her, do you respect her, do you believe her?
Un-jin M: Yes I do. I respect and admire her very much.
MW: Nansook got a degree in art history from Barnard College. Though she realized the perfect family was far from perfect, she tried to be philosophical about it. So what you are saying is that they are like…
Nansook H.: … everybody else, like all of us who are dysfunctional. Every family has problems, so they are like everybody else. But I think a little more dysfunctional than an ordinary middle class family.
MW: Well they have more money to help them to be dysfunctional.
Nansook H.: Yes
MW: The church won’t say how much money Moon has, or how many businesses he owns, but over the years he is reported to have amassed hundreds of million of dollars. Former Moon insider Donna Collins was the first western child in Moon’s church. She was born into it because her parents set up the church in England.
Donna Orme Collins: I grew up believing he was the messiah, but I can’t imagine it now.
MW: Moon took a personal interest in Donna, and as a favorite child from the West, she saw a lot of Moon’s family.
Donna O.C.: I had more contact with his family that the average member which is probably what led me to leave because I saw a lot of the discrepancies between the teachings and his behavior in his family life.
MW: The final straw came for Donna and her family, she says, when they discovered another Moon family secret, that the Reverend has at least one illegitimate son. Moon’s daughter confirmed that.
Un-jin M.: That I know, yes
MW: You know the child?
Un-jin M.: Yes, his name is Sammy
▲ Sammy Park with his mother, Soon-wha Choi, known as ‘Annie Choi’ in the US. There is a photograph of Sammy’s father on the wall behind them. It was a year or two later that Sammy discovered the friendly auntie who came to visit was actually his mother.
MW: And Un-jin told us that the warm family pictures in the church magazine give a false impression; that the truth is that Moon spends very little time with his children; and that he and his children had never been close. Nansook says that there is even a language barrier between Moon and his five youngest children. Don’t his young children speak Korean?
Nansook H.: Not really
MW: And the father does not speak much English.
Nansook H.: The father doesn’t, no.
MW: So what you are saying is that the younger ones can’t talk to their dad.
Nansook H.: They can’t really communicate.
Donna O.C.: Actually that is what his daughter told me as well. But then I would say the communication he had, even with his older children, was not particularly intimate.
MW: Do you worry at all that there might be some kind of revenge exacted upon you for your speaking out?
Donna O.C.: Yes I was extremely frightened for a long time. I couldn’t speak out. But I think there is some safety in going public, and I certainly wanted to support Nansook, because I think it is wonderful that the truth comes out about him and his family.
MW: Over the years Nansook says that her husband became increasingly violent and she feared that he might hurt the children. So one night, three years ago, while, she says, her husband was locked in their bedroom after hours of cocaine, she hustled her five children into a minivan, hid them under blankets, and drove them out of the Moon’s luxurious estate, never to return.
Now you live in a modest house in Lexington, Massachusetts, no swimming pools, no bowling alleys, no…
Nansook H: … no baby-sitters, no drivers, no cook.
MW: no cook
Nansook H.: I am the cook. I had to learn.
MW: How have the children adjusted to this new lifestyle?
Nansook H.: Oh, wonderfully. I am proud of them. We all had to learn a new way of life.
MW: A life that also contains fear of retaliation from the Moons.
Nansook H.: They are not going to control my life. I basically have to live with the fear that I have that somebody might do something to me, but that is life.
MW: After telling the divorce court what she has told us about her husband, Nansook got her divorce plus $600,000 in cash and $9,000 a month for child support. Now 32 years old she works at a center helping battered women. And she has just completed a book called “In the Shadow of the Moons.” Why are you telling this story?
Nansook H.: Because I feel that I was duped.
Nansook H.: Duped. I feel I was conned. I had a certain naive idealism that I wanted to work for God. I do think a lot of people have that. And a lot of organizations like Moon do take full advantage of those people, and I was one of them.
MW: Nansook still believes in God, but she has a new way of looking at Reverend Moon.
Nansook H.: I did come to the conclusion that Reverend Moon just cannot be the messiah.
MW: What you are saying is that he is a phony.
Nansook H.: A con man.
MW: The Reverend Sun Myung Moon is a con man.
Nansook H.: That is the conclusion I came with, living with the family for 15 years.
MW: The Reverend and Mrs Moon declined to talk to us, but they did send us a brief statement. They wrote, in part, “We commiserate with Nansook over the suffering arising from the tragic personal problems our son has faced. We as parents feel a deep sense of responsibility.”
End of ‘60 minutes’
Hyo-jin Moon arrived in court with no fewer than
four high-priced attorneys
For the son of a messiah, Hyo-jin Moon has no shortage of human failings. Many of them were on display this week in two Massachusetts courtrooms where the eldest son of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon pleaded guilty to violating a court order prohibiting him from contact with his wife and five children.
The sentence of 18 months’ probation was not as reassuring as Nansook Hong Moon had hoped it would be. “I still feel, if he wants to get me, he can. He has so much power,” she said of her rumpled, estranged husband, who paced and muttered throughout his appearances in Concord district and probate courts. Moon’s power comes from his position as scion of the founder of the Unification Church, the religious sect his 78-year-old father built into an international empire in the last 25 years.
The younger Moon came to Concord in the company of no fewer than four high-priced attorneys to face the criminal charge and to explain late child support payments and a failure to abide by a court order requiring him to pay Nansook’s legal bills.
He may be broke, but Dad isn’t. Nansook fled the lavish Moon family compound in Irvington, N.Y., last August to escape a marriage that she says was ravaged by her husband’s alcohol- and cocaine-induced rages. Moon denies Nansook’s charges of abuse and infidelity, but concedes the substance abuse that prompted the family to remove him last year as head of its Manhattan video production company.
In court this week, his lawyers expressed confidence that Moon’s new therapist will be more successful in addressing his addictions than those he retained and fired in the last year. Given Moon’s visible state of agitation when forced to remain in a courtroom for 40 minutes at a stretch, he promises to be a challenge for any therapist. He was too much of a challenge for his wife. Now 30, Nansook was a 15-year-old Seoul schoolgirl when Rev. Moon consulted Korean fortune tellers and selected her to marry his oldest son in 1981.
One of seven children of Unification Church officials, she agreed to the marriage as the “will of God.” One of her brothers had married Rev. Moon’s eldest daughter, and before long all her siblings would be betrothed to church members. As Nansook describes it, life in the Moons’ Westchester County mansion – with its drivers, cooks, maids and nannies – was neither a spiritual retreat nor a fairy tale existence. She had not completed high school and spoke little English when she was wed to a man who, she says, treated her with undisguised contempt. She had her first child at 16 and her last only eight months before her escape. “I had reached a point in my life when I could no longer endure and live with the constant threatening, verbal abuse and incidents of physical violence,” she told the court in a tearful plea for enforcement of the restraining order she obtained against Moon in Cambridge last October.
It did not take Nansook long to learn what other victims of domestic violence have learned before her: Batterers don’t let go so easily. Last December, a package arrived at the modest ranch house in the Boston suburb where she lives – secretly, she thought – with her children. Her parents, no longer members of the church, were visiting from Korea for Christmas. She was eager to celebrate her first holiday away from the Moon compound. When she saw the return address on the package, she told the court, “I was shaking, my palms were sweaty, and my voice was trembling.” “I tried to hide my anguish from the children and my family, because I did not want to show them how afraid I was. I was fearful because I knew that my husband was capable of carrying out threats he made toward me in the past,” she said.
The parcel contained small gifts for the children and a note to her, full of veiled threats. As his guilty plea this week confirmed, the letter violated the court order barring Moon from any direct contact with his wife and children. The same year that Nansook and Moon were married, Mose Durst, president of the Unification Church of America, presided at an engagement ceremony in New York for 843 couples matched by Rev. Moon. “As drugs, violence and promiscuity threaten to destroy our culture,” Durst said, “these men and women seek to embrace the classical values of morality, civic virtue and social justice.” Apparently, the messiah’s No. 1 son missed that message.
The Boston Globe (Boston, MA) June 29, 1996
Eileen McNamara, Globe Staff
A Scion Falls Short of Sinless
The Boston Globe December 20, 1997
By Eileen McNamara
Nansook Hong smiled all the way to the dentist’s office the other day. Even the prospect of a root canal looked good next to the marriage she had just dissolved in Concord probate court.
She went into Judge Edward Ginsburg’s courtroom Nansook Hong Moon and came out Nansook Hong, freed from her ties to the Rev. Sun Myung Moon in name and in law.
None of the cameras that recorded the elaborately staged mass wedding of the Rev. Moon’s followers in Washington, D.C., a few weeks ago were on hand to document the end of her 14-year marriage to Hyo Jin Moon, the eldest son of the self-proclaimed messiah.
One divorce for cruel and abusive treatment can hardly compete as television or as theater with the blessing of a football stadium full of passive brides in identical white gowns marching alongside awkward grooms in standard-issue black suits.
Still, the legal proceedings might have proven instructive for the Rev. Moon’s freshly minted newlyweds. On Thursday, the Moons marched from family court to criminal court next door to petition for an end to Hyo Jin Moon’s probationary status. The heir to the Unification has been on probation since he sent his now ex-wife a threatening note in violation of a court order that barred him from contacting her.
Hyo Jin Moon’s lawyers cautioned District Judge Paul McGill not to confuse Moon’s Massachusetts case with their client’s legal troubles in New York. He remains on probation there for two drunken driving convictions.
It’s not quite the image Sun Myung Moon would like his followers to have of the ideal True Family, as he and his wife refer to themselves and their 12 children.
In a bid for greater public acceptance, the Rev. Moon has launched several civic organizations in the last few years said to be devoted to world peace, women’s rights, and conservative family values. With names like the Women’s Federation for World Peace, these groups do not advertise their links to the Rev. Moon or the Unification Church.
In full-page newspaper advertisements that appeared before the mass wedding late last month, the Rev. Moon said he knows most Americans consider him a controversial figure. Given the 77-year-old Korean evangelist’s claims to be the Lord of the Second Advent, his 1982 conviction on federal tax-evasion [and document forgery] charges, and his 12month stint in a federal penitentiary, it could hardly be otherwise.
“We are not trying to promote me as an individual or expand the Unification Church as an institution,” he wrote, by way of reassurance. “Our goal is to bring together all peoples and all religions in an effort to strengthen families.”
The ad amused Nansook Hong, who fled the multimillion-dollar Moon family compound in Irvington, N.Y., in 1995 with her children to escape what she describes as a climate of fear, drug and alcohol abuse, and domestic violence. The family values she says she observed first-hand looked a lot more like the seven deadly sins: gluttony, lust, avarice, sloth, anger, envy, and pride.
Nansook Hong was a 15-year-old Korean schoolgirl when the Rev. Moon chose her to he the bride of his then 19-year-old son. The Rev. Moon’s own wife, Hak Ja Han Moon, was only 16 herself when she married the then-40-year-old preacher in 1960. Sun Myung Moon promptly declared himself and his wife “True Parents” who would establish the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth by bringing sinless children into the world and by uniting believers in arranged marriages.
Court papers detailing Nansook Hong’s allegations of a marriage plagued by her husband’s dug addiction and violence suggest that Hyo Jin Moon came up a little short of sinless.
Notwithstanding the unusual union being dissolved last Thursday, Judge Ginsburg dispensed his standard advice to divorcing couples: “You can be ex-husband and ex-wife, but parents are forever.”
Nansook Hong will retain sole legal and physical custody of their five children, three girls and two little boys who have not seen their father for almost two years because of his failure to meet the court’s sole requirement for visitation: a clean drug test.
It is an odd obstacle for the scion of a sect that mandates that members abstain from the use of illegal drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes. By contrast, Hyo Jin Moon spent the 30 minutes prior to his divorce proceedings outside the Concord courthouse, chain-smoking a pack of Marlboros.
Nansook Hong was interviewed by Rachael Kohn
in January 1999.
A section of this interview was broadcast on Rachael’s ABC Australia radio show ‘The Spirit of Things’ on February 5, 2006.
Rachael Kohn: Here’s a clip from someone who knew the Moonies intimately. [In 1999], I interviewed Sun Myung Moon’s daughter-in-law, Nansook Hong, who became a child bride to Moon’s son. After 14 years as a member of the True Family, and virtually imprisoned in the headquarters of the Unification Church, north of New York City, Nansook Hong made a harrowing escape with her children.
Nansook Hong: The first day I came into the compound from that moment from the time that I left, every aspect was controlled, where I lived, and where I went to school, the people that I associated with, but it was more a superficial relationship. I couldn’t tell anybody who I was. The one thing I learned very early, I learned that I couldn’t trust anybody in the compound. I always had to watch out every word that I uttered. I had to think what this was going to do to me later on. It was very much the medieval court, I guess lifestyle, everybody’s there for their political agenda, they’re all there stabbing each other’s back to get what they wanted.
Rachael Kohn: So you were in a kind of constant state of fear, as to whether you were saying the right thing or paying obeisance in the right way? Indeed, how did you pay obeisance to the Divine Mother and Father?
Nansook Hong: First of all I was basically their maid. I was there before they got up, I served their breakfast, I was there from the morning till they went to sleep. And the Reverend Moon has his meetings at his breakfast table, after that they watch some Korean soap opera, and I’m there serving them.
Rachael Kohn: So you had to sit and watch the soap opera with Mrs Moon?
Nansook Hong: Oh, and the Reverend Moon as well, yes. And when they went for trips, well I had to go. Whenever they felt like calling me, then I had to be there.
Rachael Kohn: Well Nansook, you had children, indeed five children, and they provided a great deal of emotional support for you.
Nansook Hong: Well I was first of all supposed to produce Reverend Moon’s grandchildren, and that was one of my missions, which I did. I had a certain belief of how I wanted to raise my children, that didn’t always follow Reverend and Mrs Moon’s ideas of how children should be raised. And there was conflict, but I couldn’t really go against what they were saying. And I had my way of asserting some of my ideas, but that was very difficult. Whenever they wanted to take the children to a different country, then they could, we couldn’t really say anything. The grandchildren were more like ornaments to them. When they went to Alaska, when they went to Korea or different countries, they took their little grandchildren to show the members that it kind of provided a good picture of being loving grandparents.
Rachael Kohn: There was also a curious attitude that he showed towards your parents, who had done a great deal for him, financially. You describe his need to humiliate the people who did good things for them.
Nansook Hong: That was the way for Reverend Moon to put people in place, especially people who are capable. A lot of people are there just taking money, and they’re very incompetent, and my father, he brought a lot of money and he gained a lot of respect, and I think Moon felt some threat, and he always had to put people in place by humiliating people in public, that was his tactic. He yelled, he called names, about my Dad, in front of everybody, and that’s what he did to me too, especially after my parents left, he, in front of my kids, Moon just yelled at me, called me names and it was basically a torture being there every Sunday, having to listen to what he had to say.
Rachael Kohn: Nansook, how did you manage to overcome your fear, the fear of being punished, the watchful eyes everywhere, to finally make your break from the group?
Nansook Hong: Whenever you talk about fear, you are too attached to fear, physical and also psychological. Psychologically I think the fear was there since I was born. I was told it was God’s rule and we absolutely had to obey it, and being a religious person, a person who has faith in God, you cannot conceive the idea that you will go against God. So I was in a psychological trap, and that was a very frightening thought. And also the physical fear, I constantly had to watch what my ex might do to me, there was always concern, especially a year before I left, I knew that one day I was going to end up being dead. When I finally realized that I had to leave for my safety – and also the big part was my children’s safety as well – I did plan very carefully, going to lawyers, at the same time going through a lot of soul-searching, whether I was going against God. And I had help, I had support, my family helped, my best friend helped, so I was one of the lucky ones.
Rachael Kohn: But the Moons did not give up so easily.
Nansook Hong: Well financially I really didn’t know how I was going to survive. I knew that Moon and the family and the church, they were going to fight to get the children back, and the major way of doing that is pressuring me financially. It was a long, legal battle, they used every tactic you can possibly think of. My ex declared bankruptcy to not to pay the money, and grandparents were telling lawyers not to pay a penny.
Rachael Kohn: Nansook, it’s one thing to break away from a life that has been something of an elongated torture, but then to write about it takes another kind of courage. Why did you feel you wanted to write this book?
Nansook Hong: When I realized that, I decided that I had to write a book about my life, as a perspective from inside, it was very centered on family, and not that many people have access to that. The idealism, the theory the church has that of loving family, loving parents, and children and brothers and sisters, and establishing the society and eventually the world for God, it makes very good sense, and they have a lot of truths in it. But Moon and his family, they do not practice what they preach. And not that many people have access to the reality. I felt some sense of obligation and it wasn’t just for the Unification Church members, there are a lot of cults, very destructive cults, out there, robbing people’s… I think innocent idealism. It is basically a cautionary tale for members, for future members, and also for the relatives or friends whose loved ones are in that kind of situation.
Rachael Kohn: Nansook Hong’s story of her life in the Moon compound is called In The Shadow Of The Moons: My Life in the Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Family.
Hyo-jin Moon gave a sermon to the members in 1994:
Hyo-jin Moon 1994 video
WBZ News on Hyo-jin Moon’s court appearances, alcohol and drug problems, driving violations, etc. That is followed by part of the Mike Wallace ’60 minutes’ interview with Nansook Hong:
The Rev. Moon’s “True Family” Seen as Deeply Flawed
A Massachusetts court in May  refused an attempt by representatives of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church which would have prevented the publication of a book that suggests Moon’s own family is far from the “perfect” one his followers are called on to model.
The Middlesex County Division of the Probate and Family Court lifted a restraining order on the Rev. Moon’s ex-daughter-in-law, Nansook Hong – ex-wife of Moon’s son, Hyo Jin Moon – which should now allow her to publish and promote her book, In the Shadow of the Moons: My Life in the Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Family. Nansook Hong had argued that an injunction against her activities on the ground that her book would harm the couple’s children was intended to harass her and chill publication of the book.
A promotional brochure for the book says that “nothing in [Nansook Hong’s] devoutly religious and sheltered upbringing prepared her for the nightmare that she was about to enter: fourteen years of abuse and degradation at the hands of the Moon family and her husband, Hyo Jin Moon – the reverend’s eldest son;” that “Hyo Jin was a violent alcoholic and drug addict;” and that “during their marriage he carried on multiple affairs which he and the Moon family blamed – along with his substance abuses and profligate spending – on Nansook’s failings as a wife.”
The court ruled against plaintiff Hyo Jin Moon’s attempt to prevent the book’s publication due to the First Amendment bar on prior restraints of expression.
Life with the Moons
A conversation with Nansook Hong, former daughter-in-law of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon
Transcript from the October 13, 1998 event
Timehost: Welcome to the TIME room! We are very pleased to have with us tonight Nansook Hong, the former daughter-in-law of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, leader of the Unification Church, and the author of the recent book ‘In the Shadow of the Moons.’
Nansook Hong: Thank you for having me.
Timehost: Thank you for joining us… Your book talks a lot about the goings on within the Moon inner circle, about how their lifestyle contradicts with their professed beliefs… let’s start with this question…
wonders123 asks: You started out as a Moonie – and you believed everything he said?
Nansook Hong: Well, I was born into the church, and I was taught the church doctrine, since I was very little, in Sunday school. In addition to Bible stories, I learned the Divine Principle, the book of the church. It’s supposed to be the divine revelations of God. And yes, I did believe. Yes, I believed that Moon was the messiah. However, along the way, as I got to see Moon as a person, an egocentric person, who believed that the whole world revolved around him. Especially when he spoke about his understanding of God, as someone who revolves around Moon and has to follow Moon, that’s when I began to question him. So I had a different view of him from afar, but once I was a member of the family, and had a chance to see him very closely, it was a different picture. Members don’t really have a chance to see Rev. Moon as closely as I did.
Timehost: Could you state what the core beliefs of the Unification Church are – so that we’re all clear? How are they different from mainstream Christianity?
Nansook Hong: Well, Rev. Moon claims to be the messiah. He claims that Jesus came to him when he was 16. And he says that Jesus says that he failed since he didn’t establish the ideal family. So Jesus had the spiritual foundation. Because he was crucified, he asked Rev. Moon to fulfill the mission that Jesus failed. And Reverend Moon accepted. I think that’s the primary difference. Christians believe that Jesus was the messiah, while Moonies believe that Rev. Moon is the Second Coming [of Christ, the Lord of the Second Advent]. He and his wife are called the True Parents. Rev. Moon is the True Father and his wife is the True Mother. And they are meant to be the perfect family. And they are the ones who are going to teach us true family values and establish the Kingdom of Heaven [on Earth]. Rev. Moon has been proclaiming that he has established his ideal family, and fulfilled his mission, and when I pinpointed that his family is just as dysfunctional as any other family – or more than most – then I think his theology falls apart.
waikiki96815 asks: What was the final straw that prompted you to leave?
Nansook Hong: There were a lot of factors. Initially it was my disillusionment about Moon. Also my ex-husband. I believed that my mission was to be a good wife, and that my mission was to help him change. But he had no desire to change. The elders, the leaders of the church, had only political motives, and greed. Also, the physical abuse from my ex-husband was intolerable. And the environment that my children were growing in up was not healthy. When I saw my children beginning to act the same as my aunts and uncles – like brats – I knew that I had to take them out. I also knew that at some point in the future I would be beaten to death by my ex. But it was a difficult break. Because all I knew my life was the church. I had five children. I had to go through lots of soul searching. But I knew that I had to go.
Timehost: But was it just lack of respect to elders… could you detail the problems that plague the Moon family?
Nansook Hong: First of all, I began to question whether Rev. Moon was the messiah. He was a very unfair person. I didn’t see any respect – or love – coming from him [in] his relationships with his closest members and children. He wasn’t a good father. My ex is still angry at him for not having his father around growing up. Moon had an excuse – he always blamed somebody else. The family itself basically had no respect for people. These are not the kind of people I view as being religious. Even though I began to question whether Moon was the messiah, I still clung on to the belief system that I had – that I was called by God. And the fact that Moon was incredibly selfish when he talked about sacrifice for others. It was not consistent with the idea I had about messiahship. I came to the conclusion on my own, being with the Rev. Moon’s family for fourteen years, that he could not be the messiah.
goopster345 asks: Do you ever miss anything about living with the Moons?
Nansook Hong: Nope.
religious778 asks: How come so many establishment types seem to support Moon?
Nansook Hong: I think first of all, there are other organizations that have minority status, and they think that if one organization is persecuted, they could be next. And Moon spends a lot of money promoting himself. He has lots of organizations that he’s founded, but those organizations don’t go out and tell people they’re started by Moon. So there are science conferences, and journalists’ conferences that hide what they are about. But it’s basically about turning everybody into Moonies.
Timehost: The Washington Times in America is one organization run by Moon, can you cite the names of any others?
Nansook Hong: The University of Bridgeport, Atlantic Video, the Manhattan Center Studio.
Timeguest: There are newspapers all over: [the Segye Ilbo in Korea, the Sekai Nippo in Japan, the Tiempos del Mundo in Argentina, the Ultimas Noticias in Uruguay, the Middle East Times, etc.]
Timeguest: Il-Hwa which is a pharmaceutical company.
Timehost: You single out former Pres. George Bush and his wife for criticism in being willing to appear at Moon-sponsored functions, knowing full well where the money is coming from… Why do you think they do it, and do you know if they’ve read your book?
Nansook Hong: I don’t know whether they read the book. Why do I think they do it? I don’t know. I read that Bush said that as long as Moon promotes family values, Bush will promote him.
Timeguest: But Moon uses idealism to get to people – and he doesn’t practice what he preaches. Moon uses – and pays – lots of famous people. Bush is one example. Jack Kemp and Barbara Walters are others. He does it to gain credibility. And I think that Bush has been helping Moon to achieve his goal.
religious778 asks: Are the Moons arms dealers?
Nansook Hong: Arms dealers – his son basically manufactures guns. Guns. They have an arms manufacturing factory. My ex owned over 60 guns. They like shooting animals. My ex enjoyed torturing animals – that to me says something about a person. And that’s not the character I see in people who profess to be leaders.
Thorntree asks: How does a drug company or university promote Moon? What do they actually do?
Nansook Hong: Initially, their approach is to get people’s attention. They all have different tactics. A drug company is there to make money. If people know that it’s his company, it helps to build his credibility. A university helps to shape people’s minds – and it’s very important to Moon to shape young peoples’ minds. Moon buys universities when they are in trouble financially, and he wants his people to teach Unification Thought. But it happens gradually. They talk about world peace, family values – which sound good. Idealistic people are fascinated and curious about these ideas. Once people are brought into that realm, they introduce church principles, little by little, and eventually they reveal that the Rev. Moon is the messiah. It is a slow process, and the church is pretty good at what they are doing. I think in the beginning, there’s a nice honeymoon phase. People in the beginning phases feel that they are loved and respected. That’s how they get into peoples’ hearts.
Timehost: In your book, you write about trips from Japan with thousands of dollars in cash stuffed into your suitcases to finance U.S.-based Moon operations. This next question ties into that.
statefarmer asks: Nansook, can you give examples of payoffs?
Nansook Hong: I don’t think I can give specific examples. The Moonies are very, very wealthy. They come into this country with lots of cash but that’s mainly for Moon and his family, for their gambling and shopping sprees. But the main source of money that supports the US projects comes from Japan.
Timehost: Have they changed their business practices any since Moon was imprisoned for tax evasion?
Nansook Hong: No, I don’t think so. They’ve always had two books [sets of accounts]. One for the IRS and one for themselves. Moon has always seen himself as above the law. I saw money laundry from one place to the other. They try to separate the church from the business organization very carefully.
puffy_law asks: How did you manage to get away from the powerful Moon family?
Nansook Hong: I had to plan for seven months. I knew that if the church or the family found out – actually the church IS the family – if one of them found out about my plan to escape, that would be the end of my existence. So I had to plan very carefully. I first of all went to lawyers because I wanted custody of my children. My brother and my best friend helped out. I rented a storage unit and started packing stuff away. I had a little money saved. I put down the downpayment for a house in Massachusetts.
I basically ran with my five kids. I ran out of the compound, and after that it was a long legal battle for three years. First of all, they tried to make me come back. One way was to try to squeeze me financially as much as they could. And after all, I had five children. I was pretty scared of my ex. I got a restraining order. They had a large amount of cash to pay lawyers, I didn’t. I always had to look over my shoulder. I was afraid that they were going to kidnap the kids. I asked for child support – of course they refused. My ex declared bankruptcy. This person who had everything said he was broke. They refused to pay child support.
But in the end, after a long battle, they paid me something. They didn’t want me to talk. But I wanted to write this book. They tried to sue me to prevent the book from being published. They argued that it would hurt the children. The case was dismissed, but I was stuck with huge lawyers’ fees. It was a physical as well as an emotional struggle. I wanted to move away from the Moons. And the book helped me to do that. I had to reflect on my life and my past. It gave me a different perspective. It was therapeutic – the process helped me heal. I’m getting letters from people who left the church, and who find the book enlightening. So I have my satisfaction.
Xgojin asks: Are you in danger with the Moonies now?
Nansook Hong: I’ve received some threats. Some members of the church and family members still come around and want me to come back. If I were to go back then they could say it was my fault not theirs. I heard that my ex-husband has been making threats, violent threats, against me. He apparently said, “I should have killed her when I had the chance.” And I think he feels that way. I was on a book tour, and I remember thinking on the plane, would I be the next Nicole Brown Simpson. But I decided that fear was not going to control my life. So I am concerned about that the family or the church or my ex will do, but I’m happy with my life now.
KatBird_27 asks: I saw you on NW Afternoon a week or so ago and I was wondering if you allow your children to see your ex-husband?
Nansook Hong: He has supervised visitation. I had a problem with my ex-husband, but those are adults’ problems. But I hope that he can clean up his act and become a good father. I think that’s crucial for kids.
goopster345 asks: What is your life like now?
Nansook Hong: Mainly I’m a mom of five children. That job consumes 99 percent of my life. And that’s pretty tough. Right now, I’m also working in a battered women’s shelter, and that’s pretty fulfilling. I’m also working to get a degree in social work.
Timehost: We’re almost out of time. Let’s take one last question. Many people have speculated that the Moonies won’t survive the Rev. Moon.This next question ties into that…
questioner765 asks: Do you think that your book will change the way people view Moon?
Nansook Hong: I don’t know the answer to that. I wish the answer were yes, but I don’t know. I know that certain people have changed their minds about Moon because of the book.
Timeguest: But lots of members will blindly believe what they want to believe.
Nansook Hong: It’s their way of life – for some, it’s a paycheck. All their friends are members. They have no life outside the church. It’s their whole life. I hope it makes some difference. And I know for a fact that that is the case.
Timehost: That’s all the time we have for tonight, but do you have any closing thoughts before we end, Nansook?
Nansook Hong: Moon claims that he has absolute power since he is the messiah. But absolute power corrupts people, and I think that’s what’s happening to Moon and his family and the church, and I think there is an hypocrisy in the church. And I didn’t experience love in the family that professes to be a family of love. There are lots of good people in the church, but I think that Moon has touched so many peoples’ lives in the wrong way. And I think that’s evil.
Timehost: Thank you very much for joining us, Nansook. And good luck for your life ahead.
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