"I have become a legend in the Gloucester area," Korean evangelist Sun Myung Moon said in a New Orleans speech last fall.
Moon, who has summered in this fishing town for two years and is expected back again, may not be a legend, but he's the talk of the town.
Moon's Unification Church has been moving into the fishing industry for about two years and, in its most dramatic expansion endeavor, has spent more than $4 million for properties in Bayou la Batre, Ala., population 2,500.
Now, the Unification Church is trying to buy property in Gloucester and some of the residents, most notably Mayor Leo Alper, don't like it. "I'm no bigot," Alper said last week, "but I don't want them here."
Gloucester is not afraid that the South Korean evangelist wants to enlist the town's sons and daughters in his Eastern-Christian movement, but it worries that Moon will take the town's father's jobs.
Mention Moon to a group of fishermen and they voice fears that dozens of his boats, manned by Unification Church members working without pay, will drive them out of business. However, mention Moon and his business agents to the wharf owners and they praise the newcomers for paying in cash, on time, and in full.
Moon himself appears to have a love for catching giant bluefin tuna, a traditional sport as well as business in Gloucester.
AT a Rotary Club meeting, Alper recalled, Neil Salonen, president of the Unification Church of America, told of watching Moon throw a bare hook into the water, and, in a short time, catch a giant bluefin. The mayor says he rose to his feet in disbelief.
Gloucester, located about 40 miles north of Boston, has a year-round population of about 28,000 and a heavy influx of summer residents. It is one of the oldest and most famous of New England's fishing towns.
The Unification Church's Gloucester operation has been a mixture of straight dealing and mystification. Adding to the mystery are name changes by Moon-related companies, changes of telephone numbers and contradictory statements by Moon representatives.
The Gloucester expansion comes as the church, which also has real estate holdings in New York, is also broadening its position in the fish business in Norfolk and Bayon la Batre.
The red meat of bluefin tuna, not popular with American diners, sold for around $1.35 a pound in Gloucester last season. But it can bring eight to 20 times that amount in Japan where, eaten raw, it is a staple.
Officials of the National Marine Fisheries Service report that most fish caught or purchased by Moon agents is loaded into ice-packed boxes dubbed "coffins" for air freight to Tokyo on Japan Airlines.
The Moon church's fishing sucfin is the giant of the tuna species and Gloucester fish average around 700 pounds, although 1,000-pound tuna are not unusual.
The Moon's church's fishing successes have spawned rumors that the church this summer will bring not four, but 24 boats into Gloucester. Asked if Moon will return, RIchard Sapp, a Moon representative who has lived here off and on for two years, replied: "It depends on where the fish are going to be. He'll be where the tuna are."
Last summer. Moon and a group of his followers rented a secluded, compfortable house and traveled by rubber raft from the house to their tuna boats each day.
"I was always the first one out to sea,"Moon said last fall of his Gloucester summer. "Some of the seasoned professional fishermen would go out early to undo me but no matter how early they got out (Moon's boat) was already there. The fishermen were not only inspired by this but when they tried to compete with me they had to work so hard that they had no time for their usual drinking and laziness.
"By the end of summer a rumor was going around that declining town that I am the only one who can save Gloucester." Such charaterization drew a snort from Gloucester's mayor.
Sapp does not speak of saving a town, but rather of getting a foothold. He recently agreed to purchase 3.5 acres on Freshwater Cove. It is a diffi-cester." Such characterizations drew a cult site: part of the acreage is permarsh land on which nothing can be built. The land now has one abandoned shack and several dozen lobster pots.
Sapp says he is shopping for commercial facilities in Gloucester. He says his purchases would be on behalf of International Seafoods of Norfolk.
International Seafoods is a Unification Church-owned company "as much as General Motors is owned by the Pope," Sapp said in reply to a question. Sapp said General Motors is 50 percent owned by the Catholic Church. Asked whether he meant 50 percent of the stockholders of General Motors were Catholic, Sapp said, "Maybe it's the Methodists."
General manager Ted West of International Seafoods in Norfolk makes no bones of the Unification Church's funding of his business. West says that "higher-ups" control International Seafoods.
West said Sapp has recently become affiliated with International Seafoods. Sapp, on the other hand, said he has been working for International Seafoods for "quite a while." He declined to be more specific, but suggested that West could answer any other questions.
International Seafoods is the latest identification for apparent Moon operations in Gloucester.
The first Moon business here was named Tong II Enterprises. Not too long after a photograph of the Tong II truck appeared in the GLoucester Daily Times, the truck reappeared with the words Tong II painted out.
Sapp, who Gloucester people remember said he was working for Tong II, now says he had no connection with that company.
"They've identified themselves under several different names," said Charles Philbrook of the enforcement branch of the National Maritime FIsheries Service. He says the Moon people handle the tuna property.
After the name Tong II vanished (and its New York City telephone was disconnected), a company called Uni-world appeared. A man who answered Uniworld's telephone this week and did not give his name, said the company has no connection with the Unification Church. "We buy a lot of fish. We're purveyors."
Toshihiko Matsumura is the president of Uniworld, the man said. Matsumura is listed in Virginia documents as one of the officials who started International Oceanic Enterprises, which is the parent of International Seafoods, which Sapp says he now represents in GLoucester.
The Unification Church New York headquarters could not fine a spotes-man to return a telephone call in three days last week.
While Gloucester waits to learn what plans Moon has here, Bayou la Batre is deeper in the church's embrace.
Bo Hi Pak, who has been Moon's translator and a key witness in the congressional hearings in the Korean Central Intelligence Agency operations in this country, was one of the major negotiators when International Oceanic Enterprises bought 700 acres in bayou la Batre.
"We've only got 750 registered voters," one Bayou la Batre resident said last week, "so we thought the Moonies might bring a thousand and outvote us."
The town's fears. like Gloucester's were more economic than political, however, so they zoned the Unification Church's 700 acres residential to prevent the church from building a fish processing plant.
The Unification Church then bought the town's largest boatyard for more than $2 million. All the workers were given immediate pay raises and there are no signs of unhappiness at the U.S.[WORD ILLEGIBLE] boatyard. But that hasn't stopped an organization called Concerned Citizens of the South from rising to fight Moon.