The payments included a $3 million “birthday present” to current
communist leader Kim Jong Il and offshore payments amounting to “several
tens of million dollars” to the previous communist dictator, Kim Il
Sung, the documents said.
Moon apparently was seeking a business foothold in
Korea, but the transactions also raised potential legal questions for
Moon, who appears to have defied U.S. embargos on trade and financial
relations with the Pyongyang government. Those legal questions were
never pursued, however, apparently because of Moon's powerful political
connections within the Republican power structure of Washington,
including financial and political ties to the Bush family.
Besides making alleged payments to
Korea’s communist leaders, the 86-year-old founder of the South
Korean-based Unification Church has funneled large sums of money,
possibly millions of dollars, to former President George H.W. Bush.
One well-placed former leader of Moon’s
Unification Church told me that the total earmarked for former President
Bush was $10 million. The father of the current U.S. President has
declined to say how much Moon’s organization actually paid him for
speeches and other services in Asia, the United States and South
At one Moon-sponsored speech in
Argentina in 1996, Bush declared, “I want to salute Reverend Moon,” whom
Bush praised as “the man with the vision.”
Bush made these speeches at a time when Moon was expressing
intensely anti-American views. In his own speeches, Moon termed the
States “Satan’s harvest” and claimed that American women descended from
a “line of prostitutes.”
During the pivotal presidential campaign in 2000, Moon’s
Washington Times alsoattacked the Clinton-Gore administration for
failing to take more aggressive steps to block
Korea’s military research and development. The newspaper called the
Clinton-Gore administration’s decisions an “abdication of responsibility
for national security.”
A Helping Hand
Yet, in the 1990s when
Korea was scrambling for the resources to develop missiles and nuclear
technology, Moon was among a small group of outside businessmen quietly
investing in North Korea.
Moon’s activities attracted the attention of the Defense
Intelligence Agency, which is responsible for monitoring potential
military threats to the
Though historically an ardent anticommunist, Moon negotiated a
business deal in 1991 with Kim Il Sung, the longtime communist leader,
the DIA documents said.
The deal called for construction of a hotel complex in
Pyongyang as well as a new Holy Land at the site of Moon's birth in
one document said. The DIA said the deal sprang from face-to-face
negotiations between Moon and Kim Il Sung in
from Nov. 30 to
Dec. 8, 1991.
“These talks took place secretly, without the knowledge of the
South Korean government,” the DIA wrote on
2, 1994. “In the original deal with Kim [Il Sung], Moon paid several
tens of million dollars as a down-payment into an overseas account,” the
DIA said in a cable dated Aug. 14, 1994.
The DIA said Moon's organization also delivered money to Kim Il
Sung's son and successor, Kim Jong Il.
“In 1993, the
Unification Church sold a piece of property located in
the DIA reported on
Sept. 9, 1994. “The profit on the sale, approximately $3 million was sent
through a bank in
to the Hong Kong branch of the KS [South Korean] company ‘Samsung
Group.’ The money was later presented to Kim Jung Il [Kim Jong Il] as a
After Kim Il Sung's death in 1994 and his succession by his son,
Kim Jong Il, Moon dispatched his longtime aide, Bo Hi Pak, to ensure
that the business deals were still on track with Kim Jong Il “and his
coterie,” the DIA reported.
“If necessary, Moon authorized Pak to deposit a second payment for
Kim Jong Il,” the DIA wrote.
The DIA declined to elaborate on the documents that it released to
me under a Freedom of Information Act request in 2000. “As for the
documents you have, you have to draw your own conclusions,” said DIA
spokesman, U.S. Navy Capt. Michael Stainbrook.
Moon's Right-Hand Man
Contacted in Seoul, South Korea, in fall 2000, Bo
Hi Pak, a former publisher of The Washington Times, denied
that payments were made to individual North Korean leaders and called
“absolutely untrue” the DIA's description of the $3 million land sale
benefiting Kim Jong Il.
But Bo Hi Pak acknowledged that Moon met with North Korean officials
and negotiated business deals with them in the early 1990s. Pak said the
North Korean business investments were structured through South Korean
“Rev. Moon is not doing this in his own name,” said Pak.
Pak said he went to North Korea in 1994, after Kim Il Sung’s death,
only to express “condolences” to Kim Jong Il on behalf of Moon and his
wife. Pak denied that another purpose of the trip was to pass money to
Kim Jong Il or to his associates.
Asked about the seeming contradiction between Moon's avowed
anti-communism and his friendship with leaders of a communist state, Pak
said, “This is time for reconciliation. We're not looking at ideological
differences. We are trying to help them out” with food and other
Samsung officials said they could find no information in their files
about the alleged $3 million payment.
North Korean officials clearly valued their relationship with Moon.
In February of 2000, on Moon's 80th birthday, Kim Jong Il sent Moon a
gift of rare wild ginseng, an aromatic root used medicinally, Reuters
Because of the long-term U.S. embargo against North Korea, Moon’s
alleged payments to the communist leaders raised potential legal issues
for Moon, a South Korean citizen who is a U.S. permanent resident alien.
“Nobody in the United States was supposed to be providing funding to
anybody in North Korea, period, under the Treasury (Department's)
sanction regime,” said Jonathan Winer, former
deputy assistant secretary of state handling international crime.
The U.S. embargo of North Korea dates back to the Korean War. With a
few exceptions for humanitarian goods, the embargo barred trade and
financial dealings between North Korea and “all U.S. citizens and
permanent residents wherever they are located, … and all branches,
subsidiaries and controlled affiliates of U.S. organizations throughout
Moon became a permanent resident of the United States in 1973,
according to Justice Department records. Bo Hi Pak said Moon has kept
his “green card” status. Though often in South Korea and South America,
Moon maintained a residence near Tarrytown, north of New York City, and
controls dozens of affiliated U.S. companies.
Direct payments to foreign leaders in connection with business deals
also could have prompted questions about possible violations of the U.S.
Corrupt Practices Act, a prohibition against overseas bribery.
(But in the six years since we disclosed the Moon-North Korean
payments, George W. Bush's administration has taken no legal action
against Moon. Meanwhile, Moon's Washington Times has been one of
Bush's most consistent and aggressive backers in the U.S. news media.)
Moon's followers regard him as the second Messiah and grant him broad
power over their lives, even letting him pick their spouses. Critics,
including ex-Unification Church members, have accused Moon of
brainwashing young recruits and living extravagantly while his followers
Around the world, Moon's business relationships long have been
cloaked in secrecy. His sources of money have been mysteries, too,
although witnesses – including his former daughter-in-law – have come
forward in recent years and alleged criminal money-laundering within the
Moon “demonstrated contempt for U.S. law every time he accepted a
paper bag full of untraceable, undeclared cash collected from true
believers” who carried the money in from overseas, wrote his
ex-daughter-in-law, Nansook Hong, in her 1998 book, In the Shadows of
Since Moon stepped onto the international stage in the 1970s, he has
used his fortune to build political alliances and to finance media,
academic and political institutions.
In 1978, Moon was identified by the congressional “Koreagate”
investigation as an operative of the South Korean CIA and part of an
influence-buying scheme aimed at the U.S. government. Moon denied the
Though Moon later was convicted on federal tax evasion charges, his
political influence continued to grow when he founded The Washington
Times in 1982. The unabashedly right-wing newspaper won favor with
presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush by backing their policies
and hammering their opponents.
In 1988, when then-Vice President Bush was trailing early in the
presidential race, the Times spread a baseless rumor that the
Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis had undergone
psychiatric treatment. The Moon-affiliated American Freedom Coalition
also distributed millions of pro-Bush flyers.
The elder George Bush personally expressed his gratitude. When Wesley
Pruden was appointed The Washington Times’ editor-in-chief in
1991, Bush invited Pruden to a private White House lunch “just to tell
you how valuable the Times has become in Washington, where we
read it every day.” [Washington Times, May 17, 1992].
While Bush was hosting Pruden in the White House, Pruden’s boss was
opening his financial and business channels to North Korea. According to
the DIA, Moon’s North Korean deal was ambitious and expensive.
“There was an agreement regarding economic cooperation for the
reconstruction of KN's [North Korea's] economy which included
establishment of a joint venture to develop tourism at Kimkangsan, KN
[North Korea]; investment in the Tumangang River Development; and
investment to construct the light industry base at Wonsan, KN. It is
believed that during their meeting Mun [Moon] donated 450 billion yen to
KN,” one DIA report said.
In late 1991, the Japanese yen traded at about 130 yen to the U.S.
dollar, meaning Moon’s investment would have been about $3.5 billion, if
the DIA information is correct.
Moon’s aide Pak denied that Moon’s investments ever approached that
size. Though Pak did not give an overall figure, he said the initial
phase of an automobile factory was in the range of $3 million to $6
The DIA depicted Moon’s business plans in North Korea as much
grander. The DIA valued the agreement for hotels in Pyongyang and the
resort in Kumgang-san, alone, at $500 million. The plans also called for
creation of a kind of Vatican City covering Moon’s birthplace.
“In consideration of Mun's [Moon's] economic cooperation, Kim [Il
Sung] granted Mun a 99-year lease on a 9 square kilometer parcel of land
located in Chongchu, Pyonganpukto, KN. Chongchu is Mun's birthplace and
the property will be used as a center for the Unification Church. It is
being referred to as the Holy Land by Unification Church believers and
Mun [h]as been granted extraterritoriality during the life of the
North Korea granted Moon some smaller favors, too. Four months after
Moon’s meeting with Kim Il Sung, editors from The Washington Times
were allowed to interview the reclusive North Korean communist leader in
what the Times called “the first interview he has granted to an
American newspaper in many years.”
Later in 1992, the Times was again rallying to President
George H.W. Bush’s defense. The newspaper stepped up attacks against
Iran-Contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh as his investigation homed
in on Bush and his inner circle. Walsh considered the Times’
relentless criticism a distraction to the criminal investigation,
according to his book, Firewall.
That fall, in the 1992 campaign, the Times turned its
editorial guns on Bush’s new rival, Bill Clinton. Some of the
anti-Clinton articles raised questions about Clinton’s patriotism, even
suggesting that the Rhodes scholar might have been recruited as a KGB
agent during a collegiate trip to Moscow.
A Bush Salute
George H.W. Bush’s loss of the White House did not end his
relationship with Moon’s organization. Out of office, Bush agreed to
give paid speeches to Moon-supported groups in the United States, Asia
and South America. In some cases, Barbara Bush joined in the events.
During this period, Moon grew increasingly hateful about the United
States and many of its ideals.
In a speech to his followers on Aug. 4, 1996, Moon vowed to liquidate
American individuality, declaring that his movement would “swallow
entire America.” Moon said Americans who insisted on “their privacy and
extreme individualism … will be digested.”
Nevertheless, former President Bush continued to work for Moon’s
organization. In November 1996, the former U.S. President spoke at a
dinner in Buenos Aires, Argentina, launching Moon’s South American
newspaper, Tiempos del Mundo.
“I want to salute Reverend Moon,” Bush declared, according to a
transcript of the speech published in The Unification News, an
internal church newsletter.
“A lot of my friends in South America don’t know about The
Washington Times, but it is an independent voice,” Bush said. “The
editors of The Washington Times tell me that never once has the
man with the vision interfered with the running of the paper, a paper
that in my view brings sanity to Washington, D.C.”
Contrary to Bush’s claim, a number of senior editors and
correspondents have resigned in protest of editorial interference from
Moon’s operatives. Bush has refused to say how much he was paid for the
speech in Buenos Aires or others in Asia and the United States.
Going After Gore
During the 2000 election cycle, Moon’s newspaper took up the cause of
Bush’s son and mounted harsh attacks against his rival, Vice President
In 1999, the Times played a prominent role in promoting a
bogus quote attributed to Gore about his work on the toxic waste issue.
In a speech in Concord, N.H., Gore had referred to a toxic waste case in
Toone, Tennessee, and said, “that was the one that started it all.”
The New York Times and The Washington Post garbled the
quote, claiming that Gore had said, “I was the one that started it all.”
The Washington Times took over from there, accusing Gore of
being clinically “delusional.” The Times called the Vice
President “a politician who not only manufactures gross, obvious lies
about himself and his achievements but appears to actually believe these
confabulations.” [Washington Times, Dec. 7, 1999]
Even after other papers corrected the false quote, The Washington
Times continued to use it. The notion of Gore as an exaggerator,
often based on this and other mis-reported incidents, became a powerful
Republican “theme” as Texas Gov. Bush surged ahead of Gore in the
presidential preference polls.
Republicans also made the North Korean threat an issue against the
Clinton-Gore administration. In 1999, a report by a House Republican
task force warned that during the 1990s, North Korea and its missile
program emerged as a nuclear threat to Japan and possibly the Pacific
Northwest of the United States.
“This threat has advanced considerably over the past five years,
particularly with the enhancement of North Korea's missile
capabilities,” the Republican task force said. “Unlike five years ago,
North Korea can now strike the United States with a missile that could
deliver high explosive, chemical, biological, or possibly nuclear
Moon’s newspaper joined in excoriating the Clinton-Gore
administration for postponing a U.S. missile defense system to counter
missiles from North Korea and other “rogue states.” Gov. Bush favored
such a system.
“To its list of missed opportunities, the Clinton-Gore
administration can now add the abdication of responsibility for national
security,” a Times editorial said.
“By deciding not to begin construction of the Alaskan radar, Mr.
Clinton has indisputably delayed eventual deployment beyond 2005, when
North Korea is estimated to be capable of launching an intercontinental
missile against the United States.” [Washington Times, Sept. 5, 2000]
The Washington Times did not note that its founder – who has
continued to subsidize the newspaper with tens of millions of dollars a
year – had defied a U.S. trade embargo aimed at containing the military
ambitions of North Korea.
By supplying money at a time when North Korea was desperate for hard
currency, Moon helped deliver the means for the communist state to
advance exactly the strategic threat that Moon’s newspaper chastised the
Clinton-Gore administration for failing to thwart.
That money bought Moon influence inside North Korea. The Korean
theocrat also appears to have secured crucial protection from George W.
Bush's administration, after investing wisely for many years in the
[For more details on the Moon-Bush connection, see Robert Parry's
Secrecy & Privilege. To see two of the DIA documents, click
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra
stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from
Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at
secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at
Amazon.com, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine,
the Press & 'Project Truth.'