Paris Match 2579 October 29, 1998 pages 108-110
Interviewed by Romain Clergeat Photos by Yann Gamblin
Translated from the French
She thought she had married the son of God on earth. Instead, Nansook Hong tied her destiny, at the age of 15, with Reverend Moon’s eldest son, a violent, drunken, and drug addicted youth with whom she had five children. Now divorced, the young Korean woman evokes her ordeal in a book recounting her story. “In the Shadow of the Moons” is published by Editions1. She wrote it “to assure my protection,” she admitted to Paris Match. Nansook Hong reveals the hidden face of the Moon empire: the brutality of her husband, Hyo Jin Moon, the hypocrisy of her parents in-law, but also the reverend’s scheming, the diversion of money, the blindness of the faithful … It is a story of a dive into a Unification Church hell on earth.
From 15 to 29 years of age, Nansook Hong dedicated her life to the famous Reverend and married one of his sons. Now she straightens the record. For the Unification Church it is a shattering book.
Paris Match. Your departure from the Moon sect three years ago provoked the Reverend’s wrath. Things seem to have gradually calmed down. Why have you put fuel on the fire with this book?
Nansook Hong. When I left, I immediately thought about telling my story. I felt a kind of moral obligation towards those who were still in the organization. I would be happy if my experience could “enlighten” even one person. I spent a part of my life, from 15 to 29, in the Unification Church. For my mental equilibrium, I absolutely needed to make sense of what I had lived through. I also wrote this book for battered women and those who live in fear. I want to let them know that one can always get out of even the worst situations.
P.M. Your parents are members of the sect. In a sense they “gave” you to Reverend Moon to marry to Hyo Jin, his son. Do you feel bitter towards them about that?
N.H. No, not for a second. They had dedicated their lives to the Unification Church. For them it was an honor that their child had been chosen by Reverend Moon.
P.M. During the years of your marriage, did you talk with your parents about what you discovered each day in the sect?
N.H. I never told them that my husband was beating me. It would have “devastated” them. To endure, I very early on considered my marriage as a mission that I had been given by God. I could not complain. On the other hand, when I began to understand that Reverend Moon was not adhering to the principles he preached, I talked to my parents about it. But we felt stuck. For a while, I naively thought that I could change all that from the inside. That, of course, was an illusion. So I concentrated on educating my children; I wanted to raise them in a good way.
P.M. When did your husband, Hyo Jin, start drinking and taking cocaine?
N.H. He was doing that from the start of our marriage, when he was 19 years old. He was doing it in rebellion against his father. He felt immeasurable resentment against him. He blamed his father for not raising him.
P.M. Did you try to reason with him?
N.H. At the beginning, yes. But he quickly became addicted to coke. That said, the only times he spoke was when he took it … but soon his words did not make sense. He had a very Asian concept of the role of women, and considered them to be subordinate, and certainly not meant to help him solve his problems. In the evenings when he was particularly angry, he said that it was all my fault … Then he started to hit me, which seemed quite normal to him since his father boasted of doing the same thing with a female church member.
P.M. Do you think he would be capable of taking over the leadership from his father?
N.H. I heard it said that the Reverend Moon had designated his successor. It will be one of Hyo Jin’s brothers. When the Reverend disappears there will be a bloody battle.
P.M. Why did you wait fourteen years before leaving?
N.H. I have asked myself that for a long time. If I had been 20 years old at the time of my marriage, I do not think I would have stayed more than a year. I was 15 years old and I was very naive. As time passed things got more complicated, above all because of my children. Besides, I was very religious and Reverend Moon was the embodiment of the Chosen One. It took me a long time to break that image. It was a long and painful journey. When I decided to leave, at 29, it was, in a sense, totally unrealistic. I was the mother of five children, living in unbelievable luxury, and I was going to find myself living without any money and all alone. And a lot of people were going to hate me eternally.
P.M. How long passed from the moment you decided to leave the Church to the day you actually did?
N.H. In January 1995 I felt that I had to leave. The beating sessions became more and more frequent and I knew that it would worsen, and that he would attack my children. I did not want to wait until it reached that extreme situation. It would have ended up with him killing all of us. I remember one evening watching my husband get dressed to go to a strip-tease club or to the bars. I had like a revelation: God authorized me to leave. Since I had deep faith, I needed this spiritual permission. It was a kind of grace. It was the best day of my life. I felt liberated. All the same it took me eight months to realize what I had felt so intensely.
P.M. How did you escape?
N.H. First of all I secured custody of my children. Without money and caught off guard, I could not fight against the financial power of the Moons. I consulted lawyers. I rented a house and, bit by bit, I took my things to a storage place. Fortunately, my husband, under the influence of drugs and alcohol, did not notice anything. Within the Church, no one thought that I would leave such a luxurious life. This was my chance.
P.M. Isn’t it surprising, despite suspicions, that no one, starting with the Moons, reacted?
N.H. It did happen. When I went to New York to see the lawyers, several people recognized me and then made their reports. Following that there were times when I was told off, but I repeat, no one thought that I would really leave.
P.M. Have you received any threats?
N.H. Of course. But I had taken care to obtain legal measures that forbade my husband to approach us by less than 50 meters. That did not stop him from hiring people to track me down. In the end they did find me. Fortunately, Mr. and Mrs. Moon prevented their son from doing something stupid. That said, again these days, people come around to the house, call us on the phone and scare my children. I still fear them – and even more so my husband who is a dangerous man. I was scared, but the publication of this book and the publicity surrounding it will give me some protection. At least, I hope so.
P.M. Did the Moons try to buy you?
N.H. Of course. They tried everything from threats to propositions. Mrs. Moon sent me tapes in which she spoke about a reconciliation. She sent people to visit my parents, and my friends. They also wanted to buy my silence when they realized that I would not come back. I’m glad they did not offer me a huge amount of money when I was weaker; I would have probably accepted.
P.M. Do you remember the first incident that made you understand that Reverend Moon was surely not the Messiah he claimed to be?
N.H. I understood that something was wrong when I realized that he thought he was God. It was a shock to me. He took himself to be the master of the universe. And these days how can a person conquer the world if not with money? He spoke as much about money as he did about God. But I do not know to what extent he has not gone mad, he has not convinced himself that he is really the all powerful Messiah.
NANSOOK HONG “Sometimes the Moons gave $1 million in cash to my husband. It was for him to “recycle” in the Korean businesses of New York.”
P.M. How does the collection of money work in the Church?
N.H. At first, to become a member, it was very simple: you had to give all your money. Today, it’s more fuzzy. Moon still always wants more members and has to “content” himself with substantial donations but not total ones. The main source of income for the Church comes from Japan which is the most flourishing branch of the Church. At regular intervals emissaries bring suitcases full of cash. The Japanese members are probably the most fanatical. They work until they are exhausted to fulfill the goals of the Church. In addition to the restaurants, hotels, and newspapers that Moon controls, the Church hides behind organizations such as The Women’s Federation for World Peace. Under the pretext of humanitarian work, they go knocking on the doors of the rich and extort incredible sums from them.
P.M. How does money laundering work?
N.H. Oh, it is very simple! The Moons sometimes gave $1 million in cash to their children, to the sons, who immediately make a trip to the family owned Korean restaurants in New York. It is a very easy way to recycle the money.
P.M. You say in your book that the true power of the sect is in fact held by Moon’s wife.
N.H. Reverend Moon had several extramarital affairs that he called “providential encounters, trials that God put on his path”. He and his wife had some sort of tacit agreement, a little bit like Hillary and Bill Clinton. Given power and a fortune, she closed her eyes. She is the mother of his thirteen children; she knows all his secrets. In traditional Asian societies, even if the man commands, in the shadows the woman is pulling the strings. If you had a favor to ask Reverend Moon, the best way to get it was to address his wife. Unfortunately for me, she never supported me. My husband beat me, but according to her I was one to blame. If I had lived up to my task, I should have changed him, she said. But how could I have transformed a violent manic-depressive when they themselves, who called themselves superior, had failed in their education of their own son? In their defense, my husband scared them. He is the only one in the family who answered back to his father.
P.M. Does Reverend Moon have illegitimate children inside the sect?
N.H. In the inner circle, it is known! But people are bound by the money and the desire to preserve their comfort.
P.M. You say Reverend Moon is able to give speeches to the members for fifteen hours. Does he use drugs to achieve such performances?
N.H. No, absolutely not. But these speeches are translated from Korean into English, which reduces his effective speaking time to seven hours; which is not bad.
P.M. What exactly does he talk about?
N.H. It’s a pretty incoherent jumble about God, family, purity and other nonsense …
P.M. What are you living off these days?
N.H. Through my lawyers, I receive a pension from the Moons for the education of my children. That is my only source of income. I work at an association for battered women.
P.M. After being betrayed, do you now find it hard to trust your fellow men?
N.H. Not really. I find it hard believe the talk of religious people. In any case, I do not want to be under the control of anyone. ♦