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The Bush-Kim-Moon Triangle of Money

By Robert Parry
March 10, 2001

At this past week’s summit, George W. Bush and South Korean President Kim Dae Jung disagreed publicly on how to deal with communist North Korea – Bush advocated a harder line. But the two leaders have a little-known bond in common: the political largesse of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

For more than three decades, Moon, the founder of the South Korea-based Unification Church, has spun a worldwide spider's web of influence, connecting to hundreds of powerful leaders through the silken threads of his mysterious money.

Moon’s beneficiaries include the Bush family and, according to U.S. intelligence reports, Kim Dae Jung.

Though seldom discussed publicly, the Moon-Bush connection has been reported before – and detailed in this publication. But Moon’s financial links to Kim Dae Jung – a longtime dissident who opposed the authoritarian governments that ruled South Korea during the Cold War – have remained secret.

U.S. intelligence stumbled onto the Moon-Kim connection while monitoring South Korean political developments in 1987.

By that time, Moon’s Unification Church already had built close ties to the Reagan-Bush administration, especially through Moon's funding of conservative causes and his $100-million-a-year subsidy of the right-wing Washington Times, hailed by Ronald Reagan as his “favorite” newspaper.

Back in South Korea, however, Moon's longtime coziness with his home nation's autocratic rulers was strained. Moon was on the outs with the ruling Democratic Justice Party (DJP), the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency noted in a cable dated Sept. 10, 1987.

“The UC (Unification Church) … has not been happy with the somewhat cold treatment it has received under the current DJP government,” the DIA cable reported.

In response to this chilliness, Moon secretly began financing several opposition figures, the DIA reported. One was a longtime Moon ally, Kim Jong Pil, not to be confused with North Korea's current leader Kim Jong Il.

By the late 1980s, Kim Jong Pil had a long record of association with Moon. A 1978 U.S. congressional investigation into the so-called “Koreagate” influence-buying scandal reported that Kim Jong Pil founded the South Korean CIA in the 1960s and assisted Moon's Unification Church in building its influence in Japan and the United States.

The congressional investigation concluded that Kim Jong Pil and the South Korean CIA helped Moon expand his church into a well-financed international organization. They then used Moon's organization to buy influence inside the U.S. government, the congressional investigation found.

Kim Jong Pil also had served as South Korean prime minister in the early 1970s. In 1987, however, Kim Jong Pil was out of power and considering a run for the South Korean presidency.

The DIA Reports

According to the Defense Intelligence Agency, Kim Jong Pil was one of the candidates who benefited from Moon’s estrangement from the ruling Democratic Justice Party.

“Kim Jong-Pil is reportedly receiving financial and organizational support for his KS (South Korean) presidential bid from the controversial Unification Church,” the DIA reported in its Sept. 10, 1987, cable.

But Moon’s organization did not stop with its old ally. The DIA discovered that Moon was hedging his bets by putting money into the hands of Kim Dae Jung and other leaders of the Reunification Democratic Party.

“Cult trying to win influence with the next KS government while defeating the current ruling party's candidate,” read the title of another DIA report dated Sept. 22, 1987.

“The controversial Unification Church (UC) is actively funneling large amounts of political funds to opposition Reunification Democratic Party (RDP) advisor Kim Dae-Jung, … RDP president Kim Young-Sam, … and former KS prime minister Kim Jong-Pil for their campaigns for KS president, leaving out only the ruling party candidate, Democratic Justice Party (DJP) president Roh Tae-Woo,” the DIA report said.

“The UC wants to see Roh defeated and is funneling large amounts of political funds to Roh's three opponents with the expectation that it will have influence with whomever of the three should end up as the next president.” [I obtained these DIA reports under a Freedom of Information Act request.]

Eventually, the race boiled down to a contest between Roh Tae Woo, Kim Dae Jung and Kim Young Sam. On Dec. 16, 1987, Roh won with 36 percent of the vote. Kim Young Sam got 28 percent and Kim Dae Jung received 27 percent. Kim Jong Pil garnered only 8 percent. [For details on the election, see The Two Koreas by Don Oberdorfer.]

Discreet Relationships

Though losing that round, Moon’s beneficiaries did better in the years that followed. Kim Jong Pil again became prime minister, a post he held from 1998 to early 1999. Kim Dae Jung became president in 1998 and also won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Through the years, Kim Dae Jung did not advertise his ties to Moon. Kim's association with the theocrat who considers himself the new Messiah has remained discreet, with the two men generally avoiding contact in public.

One exception came on Feb. 1, 1999, when Moon and his wife – known to their followers as the “True Parents” – were holding a celebration at the Lotte Hotel in Seoul. To the surprise of Moon’s followers, Kim Dae Jung arrived and enthusiastically joined the couple in their ceremony.

According to the Unification News, the church's internal newsletter, the Lotte Hotel event was “the first time President Kim appeared in public with our True Parents.”

Though less secret, Moon’s relationship with the Bush family also remains little known to most Americans. Moon's organization has paid the Bush family directly – for speeches in the 1990s – but the alliance appears to have grown primarily through Moon’s extravagant financial support for The Washington Times, which has consistently backed the Bushes politically.

After its founding in 1982, The Washington Times staunchly supported some of the Reagan-Bush administration’s most controversial policies, such as the contra war in Nicaragua.

When the contra operation was embarrassed by initial public disclosures of contra drug trafficking in 1985-86, The Washington Times led the counterattack, criticizing journalists and congressional investigators who uncovered the first evidence of the problem.

Those attacks helped cement a conventional wisdom in the Washington political community that the contra-drug allegations were bogus, a belief that persisted until 1998 when the CIA's inspector general admitted that dozens of contra units were implicated in cocaine trafficking and that the Reagan-Bush administration had hidden much of the evidence. [See Robert Parry’s Lost History.]

The Washington Times also led the charge against Iran-contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The newspaper's rear-guard defense of its allies proved important when Walsh's investigation threatened to break through the long-running White House cover-up that was protecting Bush’s assertion that he was “out of the loop” on the scandal. [For details on The Washington Times' role, see Walsh’s book, Firewall.]

During national political campaigns, Moon’s Washington Times was especially influential, mounting harsh – and often inaccurate – attacks on the Bush family's adversaries.

In 1988, when George H.W. Bush was running for president, The Washington Times publicized false rumors about the mental health of Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis, an important first step in raising doubts about the Massachusetts governor.

President George H.W. Bush grew so appreciative of The Washington Times that in 1991, he invited its editor-in-chief, Wesley Pruden, to the White House for a private lunch. Bush explained that the purpose of the lunch was “just to tell you how valuable the Times has become in Washington, where we read it everyday.” [WT, May 17, 1992]

In Bush’s 1992 reelection campaign, The Washington Times was helping again, spreading new false rumors that Bill Clinton might have betrayed his country during a college trip to Moscow, possibly being recruited by the KGB as a spy.

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