By John Burgess and Michael Isikoff
Moon's Japanese Profits
Bolster Efforts in U.S.
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, September 16, 1984; Page A01
the Japanese branch of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church has
transferred at least $800 million over the past nine years into the United
States to finance the church's political activities and business operations,
including The Washington Times newspaper, according to two former high-ranking
This money is generated in Japan, primarily through a Tokyo-based business
operation that uses church members to sell marble vases, miniature treasure
pagodas and other religious icons that are represented as having supernatural
powers, the former officials said.
The sale of these items has been the principal source of capital for an
international network of Unification Church operations, said the former
officials, Yoshikazu Soejima and Hiroaki Inoue.
These operations range from Gloucester, Mass., tuna fleets to the
anticommunist political lobbying of Causa International in Latin America and the
Their accounts could explain how the Unification Church -- with fewer than
5,000 U.S. members by some estimates -- has been able to support a major
Washington newspaper that has lost an estimated $150 million during its first 2
1/2 years of operations.
The Times, showcase of the church's business network, is seen by Moon as an
important source of political influence here, according to Soejima, the former
chief of Unification Church public relations in Japan. Exhorted by pep talks to
meet "the respected father's" needs, Japanese church members have worked in
recent years under sales quotas requiring them to transfer to the United States
roughly $2.5 million a month earmarked for The Times, Soejima said.
"The Washington Times was the top priority of the entire Unification Church
worldwide," said Soejima, who was editor of Sekai Nippo (World Daily News), a
church-controlled Tokyo newspaper, before being fired last October following a
dispute with church officials over control of the paper.
Soejima and Inoue said the religious icons were distributed by Happy World
Inc., an importing firm based in Tokyo that they said is church-controlled. But
a senior Unification Church official denied in an interview last week that the
church had any relationship with Happy World.
"Our view is that the Unification Church has nothing to do with sales
activities," said Hiroshi Sakazume, the Japanese church's director general of
public relations. "We don't know what each church member is doing. But as a
church, we don't do any sales . . . . Happy World is a different company, a
totally separate organization."
Sakazume said, however, that the Japanese church is transferring money
overseas. In church theology, he said, it is Japan's duty to play the mystical
role of Eve, giving succor to the church's children in other countries. "I
cannot say exactly what the amount of money is, but I can tell you that we are
doing it legally," he said.
Soejima, 37, is the highest-level church official to break with Moon and
publicly discuss the church's operations. In five lengthy interviews with The
Washington Post in Tokyo, he provided details about church finances that were
supported by hand-written notes he said he had made after monthly meetings of
top church financial officials in 1981 and 1982.
His statements also were supported by Inoue, who headed church operations on
Shikoku Island before being fired by the church and who sat in on four of the
interviews with Soejima.
Soejima and Inoue now publish a small Tokyo newspaper that has printed
several articles critical of the Unification Church.
Soejima said he joined the Unification Church as an idealistic university
student nearly 20 years ago and that he continues to believe in its public
objectives of uniting world Christianity and eradicating communism.
But, he charged, Moon had betrayed his followers and distorted the church's
lofty goals by turning his movement into a huge money-making machine.
"By the end of 1975, the main activity of the church was collecting money,
buying lots of real estate in Korea and the United States and starting a lot of
businesses," Soejima said. Moon "is not working for the world, but for himself,"
Moon, who is serving an 18-month sentence for income tax fraud in federal
prison in Danbury, Conn., declined a written request to be interviewed for this
story. The 64-year-old evangelist, who said in July that he was moving the
worldwide Unificiation Church headquarters to his prison cell, works in the
facility's kitchen and has been receiving a stream of visitors from around the
world, according to church officials and others who have visited him there.
Founded by Moon in South Korea in 1954, the Unification Church has grown into
a multinational conglomerate of business, political and cultural organizations.
Causa International, a church-financed political group headed by Moon deputy Bo
Hi Pak, has spent millions of dollars in recent years on anticommunist lobbying
in Latin America and the United States.
The diversity of church businesses is enormous: the church has invested more
than $60 million in Uruguay in recent years, buying the country's largest luxury
hotel, its fourth-largest bank, a publishing company and large tracts of farm
It owns four South Korean manufacturing companies, including a ginseng tea
company, a titanium firm and a machine-tool and weapons manufacturer, that had
estimated total assets of $198 million last year, according to figures published
in the Maeil Economic Daily newspaper in Seoul. It also operates tuna fleets and
fish-processing plants in Gloucester, Mass., Norfolk and Alaska and owns
newspapers in Montivideo, Cyprus, Tokyo, New York and Washington.
In the Washington area alone, besides The Times, the church owns a downtown
construction firm, Monumental Construction and Moulding Co.; an Alexandria
television production firm, Tele-Color Studio, and a number of McLean-based
companies, including Unification Church International (UCI), which was
incorporated in 1977 by Bo Hi Pak, and has been described by federal
investigators as the ultimate church holding company in the United States.
UCI owns One Up Enterprises, which in turn owns News World Communications,
which in turn owns The Washington Times, according to interviews with former
church members and corporate records on file in the District and in Fairfax.
Another McLean-based UCI subsidiary, U.S. Foods Corp., collects $497,310 a
year from the D.C. government for office space it rents to the Department of
Human Services and other city agencies at 605 G St. NW, according to city
The source and scope of the church's investments in this country have long
puzzled outsiders, including congressional and federal investigators. Soejima
and some former church members in the United States said they believe most
American church businesses, such as the tuna fleets and fish-processing plants,
are run by inexperienced managers and lose money or, at best, break even. "They
lose their shirt constantly," said Jeremiah S. Gutman, a New York lawyer who
represents the Unification Church in this country.
The church's ability to finance these ventures has been especially puzzling
in light of the relatively small number of church members here.
The church claims 2 million to 3 million followers around the world,
including 300,000 in Japan and 30,000 to 40,000 in the United States, of which
about 8,000 are described as full-time members. Three former U.S. church members
interviewed recently and researchers who study the church have said that these
numbers are highly exaggerated and that the church has been losing membership
rapidly, especially in the United States, where recruitment is believed to have
slowed to a trickle several years ago.
Soejima estimated the number of Japanese members at 8,000 and quotes Moon as
saying in 1982 that he was disappointed because there were only 2,000 members in
the United States -- a number that is slightly lower than the estimates of about
3,000 members supplied by former church members and a figure of 5,000 cited by
A House subcommittee, which investigated ties between the church and the
Korean Central Intelligence Agency, concluded in a 1978 report that the church's
funds came from domestic businesses, church fund-raising and "funds from outside
the United States, the ultimate source of which was undetermined."
Based on their former access to internal church documents and Soejima's
attendance at numerous top-level meetings of church financial officials, Soejima
and Inoue said their conservative estimate is that the church has transferred at
least $800 million to the United States in the past nine years. Starting in
1975, they said, the church mobilized its Japanese members for a massive
fund-raising effort that has used high-pressure sales techniques to take
advantage of the religious superstitions of Japanese consumers.
Handwritten notes that Soejima made at some church finance meetings indicate
that the Japanese church was taking in more than $100 million a year during 1981
and 1982, most of which was transferred to church headquarters in New York.
One set of notes, based on a church financial report from June 10 to Sept.
10, 1981, states that the Japanese church raised about $54 million during the
three-month period (based on 1981 exchange rates), of which about $38 million
was sent "out" -- a term that Soejima said meant abroad. That figure was
representative of the year's other three quarters, he said.
Soejima said that sales revenues tailed off the following year but were
substantial. His notes say that from January through August 1982, the church
earned monthly profits of between $6.8 million and $14.2 million for a total of
$81.4 million. He said similar amounts were earned during the last four months
of the year. That would mean the church earned about $122 million in 1982, of
which 90 percent was shipped abroad, according to Soejima.
He said these transactions were usually made through international bank
tranfers, but large amounts of cash were carried into the United States by
church members because "sometimes Moon wants money right away. Getting
permission to send it by bank transfer takes time," Soejima said.
When Moon conducted a "mass wedding" of 2,075 couples in Madison Square
Garden in 1982, 400 Japanese men and women were flown over for the event. "Each
person took, I think, about $2,000," Soejima said.
According to Soejima, a confidential financial statement would be distributed
to 10 to 12 top Japanese church officials each month. These statements would
show roughly $2.5 million earmarked for The Washington Times.
Each month figures on actual spending would show the previous month's target
had been met. Senior officials would then deliver pep talks on "the respected
father's" needs for a better showing next time, he said.
"Always, it ended with a statement that this is where we stand now, so go out
and fight harder," Soejima said.
According to his account, the ability of the church to generate these funds
is based on its control of Happy World Inc., a company that is headquartered in
a utilitarian fifth-floor office in a Tokyo business district and whose
president, Motoo Furuta, is chief of the Japanese church's financial bureau,
according to Soejima. Church spokesman Sakazume said Furuta is not a church
In a recent interview, executive manager Sanji Nakada described Happy World
as a diversified company that, among other activities, distributes computer
equipment and runs a canning factory on Hokkaido Island and a health-drink
factory near Tokyo. Nakada said Happy World is not a church organization but
that some employes may be church members.
Happy World's main activity is importing of consumer goods, such as marble
vases, miniature treasure pagodas and ginseng teas from church-owned companies
in South Korea, including Il Shin Stoneworks, Tong Il Co. Ltd. and Il Hwa Co.
Ltd., according to Nakada and the company's sales brochures.
The vases, pagodas, ginseng and other consumer items are distributed to about
10 wholesale and retail outlets throughout Japan that, according to Soejima and
Inoue, are controlled by the church and use church members as door-to-door
More than 2,600 complaints about the sale of marble vases, ivory seals and
minature pagodas of the kind that are often sold by church members were lodged
with the Japan Consumer Information Center between 1976 and 1982, according to a
report made by the goverment-funded agency.
Hundreds of these complaints involved reported cases of intimidation, threats
or misrepresentations in which salesmen preyed on the "religious anxieties" of
consumers, according to the center's report. The small objects often were
portrayed as having mystical powers that could save unhappy marriages, cure
illnesses or purge the evil spirits of samurai ancestors, the report said.
The center has published pamphlets to warn consumers about the sales of these
items. In one case cited in a center pamphlet, a woman whose husband had just
died in an auto accident was being sold one of the objects. The salesman told
her the evil spirit of a samurai ancestor who had killed with his sword was
tormenting the family. The sale would solve that. "If you don't buy it, the same
evil spirit will continue with your children and they will meet the same fate,"
the salesmen said, according to the pamphlet.
Consumer Center officials cannot directly link such incidents with the
church's operations here. The salesmen, Soejima and Inoue said, are instructed
never to identify themselves as being with the Unification Church or Happy
"We had orders that, when engaging in economic activity, never say you are a
member of the church," Inoue said.
Nevertheless, Consumer Center officials say they have sometimes been
contacted by low-level distribution companies -- which Soejima says are church
fronts -- and told to refer consumer complaints about the items to them. "We can
presume that behind the scenes these sales groups have a systematic link,"
according to the Consumer Center report.
According to Soejima and others, the profits from sales of these items can be
enormous. In an extreme case, he said, a vase that cost about $21 was sold for
$8,300. A quantity of ginseng worth about $42 sold for eight times that amount.
One salesmen can raise about $4,000 per month, he said.
The salesmen's expenses are minimal. During his years in the church, Soejima
said, he often visited church members at grimy group houses where they slept
half a dozen to a room. The members receive no salary from the church and
immediately hand over all their sales proceeds to the house "leader." Once a
month, Soejima said, a church official comes to the house and "they collect it
in cash and bring it to Tokyo."
In a two-hour interview in Tokyo, four former church members told of being
assigned to sales soon after joining. Church officials conducted sales-training
lectures using films and stressed the need for money to finance "the
restoration" under way in the United States.
All four members, who asked not to be identified, said they were told of
Happy World's role soon after joining. "I was told it was the economic
department of the Unification Church," said a 24-year-old woman who had sold
ivory seals door-to-door.
The primary role of The Washington Times within Moon's global organization
was underscored in ways other than the financial support it received from Japan,
Soejima said. He cited a series of meetings in February 1983 that began at
church headquarters at the New Yorker Hotel, where about 70 church officials
from round the world gathered to celebrate Moon's birthday.
With Moon and his family standing before them in ceremonial Korean dress,
selected church officials played different religious and political leaders, such
as Christ, Mohammed, Buddha, President Reagan and Japanese Emperor Hirohito.
Each one prostrated himself before Moon, bowing his forehead to the floor three
times, Soejima said.
"The meaning is that Moon is higher than all of them," Soejima said. In
church theology, "Sun Myung Moon is the father and his wife is the mother of the
whole human race."
The next day, with the church officials assembled at Moon's estate in
Tarrytown, N.Y., Moon expressed disappointment with his inability to win more
converts in the United States.
But he spoke with pride of The Washington Times, bragging of important
officials who had attended its opening cermonies. Moon said that James Whelan,
then publisher of The Washington Times, "listens to what I say and makes the
newspaper as I tell him," according to Soejima.
Soejima added that Bo Hi Pak, Moon's top deputy and chairman of News World,
may not have been telling Moon the full story of Whelan's role at the newspaper.
But Soejima also said that at the same meeting, Pak remarked that there was a
problem at The Times because church members were being assigned to unimportant
jobs in the library and files.
According to Soejima, Moon responded: "It's not a difficult problem. If each
one of the church members does missionary work and converts three reporters,
then we can have unity."
At a later meeting in June 1983 on Korea's Cheju Island, Moon told a church
group that four things were necessary for world consolidation: ideology,
economy, science and technology, and journalism.
"With journalism, we have now reached success by establishing The Washington
Times," Moon said, according to Soejima. "We now have a direct influence on
Reagan through The Washington Times."
By Soejima's account, his break with the church followed a dispute over
editorial independence. As editor of Sekai Nippo, Soejima said, he was
attempting to transform the paper from a church organ into a respected journal
with general appeal. At the end of last September, however, he said, he began to
hear rumors that Moon had ordered his firing.
On the first of October, about 100 people -- including about 30 in special
karate training groups -- barged into the paper's office. They were led by
members of Shekyo Rengo, an anticommunist political group affiliated with the
church, Soejima said. They broke into desks, stole papers and beat up some of
the employes, he said. Soejima, Inoue and a policeman that Soejima had
previously summoned took shelter in an office when they arrived. "The church
members kicked in the door but stopped when they saw a policeman inside," he
Sekai Nippo vice president Naohiro Nada said the church fired Soejima because
he was trying to seize full control of the newspaper and make himself president.
Soejima filed papers at the company registry to accomplish this, Nada said.
Soejima says he did so to protect his position after learning Moon planned to
On June 2 of this year, Soejima was attacked outside his home in Tokyo and
stabbed repeatedly, according to police reports. When the attack occurred, he
was preparing an article critical of Moon that was later published in the
Japanese magazine Bungeishunju, he said.
During an interview, Soejima unbuttoned his shirt to show scars on his left
bicep, neck and chest, which he says he got in the attack. No one has been
arrested in the case.
Shigehiko Togo of the Washington Post Tokyo Bureau and special correspondent
Martin Anderson in Montevideo, Uruguary, contributed to this report.
© Copyright 1984 The Washington Post Company
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