The Korean background of the FFWPU (Unification Church)
by Young-Bok Chun
田 永褔. Secretary of the Evangelical Department of the General Assembly of the Korean Church in Japan. The article is compiled by the NCC Study Center, based on a presentation about the Unification Church by the Reverend Chun on Nov. 10, 1975, arranged by the Kyoto Christian Council.
▲ Yong-do Lee 李韻道 is on the right, next to him is Seung-geul Park 朴承傑. Behind them is Ho-bin Lee 李浩彬 who Sun Myung Moon 文鮮明 asked to officiate at his marriage to Choi Seon-gil 催先吉. Choi’s mother, who was a fundamentalist Presbyterian, disapproved of Moon’s religious beliefs.
Let me first clarify my own standpoint in the present discussion about the Unification Church. Last year several Korean church leaders issued a statement which clearly denounced the Unification Church as a non-Christian movement. Later the National Christian Council of Japan also presented its view on the movement, but it merely pointed out which parts of The Divine Principle differed from its own understanding of Christianity, and abstained from claiming that the movement was not Christian. I myself find this vague attitude somewhat unreasonable and basically agree with the Korean church leaders: The Unification Church should not be characterized as a Christian sect.
One has to admit that the Bible is an important part of its teaching; but Islam also recognizes and quotes the Bible and regards Moses and Jesus as great prophets. However, no one would claim that Islam is Christianity. Several of the new religions of Japan stress that their teaching is basically in harmony with Christianity, and often refer to the Bible, but none of them want to call their teaching Christian. The Unification Church claims that it is a Christian church founded on the Bible, but the Bible is interpreted through its holy scripture, The Divine Principle, which is the real basis of its teaching. I have had quite a lot of contact with members and leaders of the Unification Church, but the more I inquire and study their scriptures, the more I am convinced that it is quite unreasonable to call it a Christian sect.
Seen against the background of its origin and development in Korea, it is more correct to call it Moon-ism than Christianity. For it is a movement based on the founder, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon himself. In order to understand the Unification Church, one needs to see it in the light of the general Korean religious background and specific developments in some Christian sects. I will briefly indicate four points: the yin-yang philosophy, the prophetic scripture called Cheong Kam Nok 鄭鑑録, the ecstatic movements which advocated the “restoration of Eden,” and finally some sects which practised sexual rites as part of the establishment of the coming kingdom of God.
1. It is natural to point out the yin-yang philosophy as an important background for Moon’s thinking. In many popular forms this idea has penetrated the religious life of Korea. Even the Korean national flag has the traditional symbol of the “Great Origin,” which expresses the dual nature of the universe. The influence of this yin-yang philosophy is so obvious in Moon’s teaching that it is sufficient just to mention it here. The basic idea of the dual nature of God and the harmonious unification of male and female forces, man and woman included, reflects nothing but traditional yin-yang philosophy.
2. Another important factor which has influenced the Unification Church and several other new religious movements in Korea is the old scripture called Cheong Kam Nok. It conveys both an indigenous form of the yin-yang philosophy, and also a sort of Messianic idea. It is a prophetic scripture and describes the apocalyptic catastrophies in a manner similar to the Biblical Apocalypse. In Cheong Kam Nok there is a prophecy that in the end period “the true man” will appear from the “Southern Ocean,” which is nothing but Korea itself. Moon’s understanding of himself is linked to this tradition. In his teaching there is a strong conviction that he himself is the elected prophet.
3. The idea of the “return to Eden” is another dominant factor in Moon’s thinking. This is not developed by Moon himself, but was one of the central ideas in several Christian movements in the 1920’s and 1930’s.
It is said that Moon was 16 years old when he received the revelation that he was the prophet raised up by God. At that time (1936) there were several ecstatic and messianic movements in Korea, and especially a Methodist pastor called Young Do Lee [April 1901- October 1933] seems to have influenced Moon. I often went to these meetings when I was young. The pastor was an enthusiastic and eloquent preacher and advocated a peculiar interpretation of the Bible. During the meetings he used to roll up a newspaper and go around saying, “Satan, get out! Satan, get out!” while the congregation was praying in a state of ecstatic shaking.
This movement advocated the so-called “restoration of the original state” before the fall of Adam and Eve. The congregation was dancing around and crying for the return of Eden. And when the pastor cried, “Adam and Eve were naked before the fall! Take off your clothes!” the men turned to the women and stripped off their clothes, and they danced around naked.
His doctor had predicted that Mr. Lee would die of tuberculosis within a short time, but he continued his evangelistic work for more than ten years and had a considerable impact on the churches in Korea. Moon came to him in 1936 [Note: Young Do Lee died in 1933 – Moon joined the Jesus Church, founded on the teachings of Lee, in 1936] and was deeply influenced by him and other charismatic leaders. The movement was suppressed and the leaders were scattered, but Moon, who was a member of the group, brought with him the idea of the return to Eden.
4. Finally I have to mention Moon’s relation to some sects in which sexual rites were practised as a means to create a new mankind. At the age of 25 Moon engaged in this movement which practised the so-called “sharing of blood,” pi kareum (in Korean, in Japanese it is chiwake 血分け). These were rites of sexual intercourse between men and women. The idea was that the children who were going to be born through the “mixing of blood” would be without sin. Because of this “violation of social order” Moon was arrested in 1948 and sentenced to five years of imprisonment. He himself claims that a miracle occurred at that time: all the blood was extracted from his body, but he did not die. He was released during the Korean war in 1952 [in was 1950], arrested again in 1955 for the same reason, but was later released.
When it was discovered that several female members of Korean churches had been to Moon’s center to receive pi kareum, an increasing number of people started to protest against this movement as a heretical religion. However, Moon did not at this time draw so much attention as another much more influential movement called Chun Do Kwan 伝道館, led by a presbyter called Tae-seon Park 朴泰善. This sect had installed separate rooms in the basement of the churches in which men and women had sexual intercourse. These rites drew a large number of people to the movement.
In 1954 Moon’s movement was established as a separate organization called The Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity [or Unification Church for short. Moon later renamed it as The Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.] In a later stage the political and anti-communist aspect of the movement has been more and more emphasized.
In 1958 the movement was introduced in Japan. While the practise of pi kareum has been one of the central problems for the movement in Korea, the Unification Church in Japan seems to be extremely strict in sexual matters and it is difficult to trace any practice of sexual rites. But the idea of bearing children without sin is still central.
In 1960 Moon remarried, and called it “The Wedding of the Lamb.” This year was proclaimed as the beginning of the new age, cheong ki won nyon 天紀元年, “The First Year of the Heavenly Era.” All marriages had hitherto been the results of sinful relations, and in many cases people who were already married had to leave their spouses in order to marry according to Moon’s will. Now marriage between the perfect men and women who were willing to follow Moon’s command would initiate the new holy family and their children would be without sin. The mass-wedding ceremonies of the Unification Church are to be understood in this context.
It is often said that Moon himself has never declared himself as the Messiah. However, in 1968 he proclaimed that he was the Messiah, and later, when Korean pastors questioned whether Moon was regarded as the Messiah or not, a spokesman of the movement said that the one who should answer this question was not himself, but God. He himself, however, was convinced that Moon was raised by God to be the coming Messiah. If God had not recognized him, he said, he would not believe in him either.
Compared to Japanese Christians their Korean brothers have a much stronger sense of the uniqueness of Christ as the sole basis for salvation, and I find it strange that Japanese Christians do not take a much firmer stand against the Unification Church.