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Rev. Sun Myung Moon passes the torch

The Rev. Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church, has turned over day-to-day control of the church and financial empire he founded to a daughter and three sons, one of whom had a brief flirtation with Buddhism during his years at Harvard before returning to the family fold.

The Rev. Hyung Jin Moon, 30, in line to be the church's religious director, donned Buddhist robes and shaved his head for several years after the Oct. 28, 1999, death of a brother, Young-jin, who fell from the 17th floor of a hotel in Reno, Nev. At the time, his father defended him from detractors who wanted the son removed from the church.

"I was hugely moved," he told the Associated Press in a recent interview. "I had thought my father would kick me out of the church, but he protected me."

Now president of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, he is the seventh and youngest son of Rev. Moon.

The American-born Hyung Jin Moon has engaged in feats of endurance designed to encourage sincerity in religious devotion, such as a marathon session in August of 21,000 full-body bows in honor of his parents. According to his Web site, http://hyungjinmoon.iunificationist.org, he collapsed after one nonstop session of 4,000 bows.

Hyung Jin Moon will oversee a membership drive and the building of a main church temple in Seoul. He also will manage a church known for its colorful mass weddings - most of them arranged marriages - of followers whose lifelong mates were selected by the elder Rev. Moon. The latest such wedding, which also involved couples from other religions, was Tuesday night.

The "universal peace blessing" ceremony, transmitted over the Internet, was performed by Rev. Moon and his wife, Hak Ja Han, at Sun Moon University in Asan, south of Seoul. Church officials said it involved 20,000 people in Korea, 50,000 in Japan, 20,000 in the United States, including three in the metropolitan Washington area and at 88 locations nationwide.

The total effort reached 192 countries, church sources said, adding that the Unification Church numbers about 110,000 adherents worldwide.

"What [the peace blessing ceremony] represents is the blessing of all humanity as an offering to God, reclaiming the world and the sanctity of the family," said the Rev. Phillip Schanker, director of the Blessed Family Department of the Unification Church.

Mr. Schanker said Rev. Moon hopes to finish his worldwide mission of spreading "God-centered marriage" around the globe by 2012. Born in January 1920 in what is now North Korea, Rev. Moon is already celebrating his 90th year because of an East Asian custom that dates age from conception.

Hyung Jin Moon, Mr. Schanker said, "is a young guy, he has a pure heart, he is the baby of the family. Sometimes the Rev. Moon has polarized people in how he's challenged religious authorities. But the children are loving, embracing, down-to-earth. They have a broad spiritual vision for building healthy families and spiritual communities."

Hyung Jin Moon, who attended Harvard University and Harvard Divinity School, is married to Yeon Ah Lee and has five children. Still influenced by his Buddhist studies at Harvard, he is skilled in martial arts and has written three books, according to the www.familyfed.org, the church's Web site.

But he will not be taking on his father's messianic role.

Rev. Moon teaches that in 1935, he had a vision of Jesus Christ who ordered him to fulfill the unfinished task of establishing God's kingdom on earth.

"To us, the messiah is the one who re-creates the original ideal on earth, which is passing on the tradition of loving families," Mr. Schanker said. "Hyung Jin is not replacing his parents. The parents will remain our honored model, but the kids will take the traditions and values to a new level."

Hyung Jin one of several offspring who have roles in the religious movement, which entered the United States in the late 1950s.

Elder brothers Kook Jin Moon, 39, is in charge of business ventures in South Korea, while Hyun Jin "Preston" Moon, 40, is chairman of News World Communications, the parent company of The Washington Times, United Press International and other media properties. In addition, he leads The Washington Times Foundation.

Rev. Moon's second daughter, In Jin Moon, 44, is in charge of the U.S. church.

The church has expanded its operations far beyond the religious sphere to hundreds of ventures, in more than a half-dozen countries, ranging from hospitals to universities.

A list assembled by the Associated Press includes a ballet company, a professional soccer team, the New Yorker Hotel near Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, a South Korean ad agency and ski resort, and a seafood distribution firm that supplies sushi to Japanese restaurants in the United States.

About the Author
Julia Duin

Julia Duin

Julia Duin is the Times’ religion editor. She has a master’s degree in religion from Trinity School for Ministry (an Episcopal seminary) and has covered the beat for three decades. Before coming to The Washington Times, she worked for five newspapers, including a stint as a religion writer for the Houston Chronicle and a year as city editor at the ...

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