Col. Bo Hi Pak, the acting leader of the Unification Church and chairman of The Washington Times' parent company, was kidnaped and tortured for two days in September and released only after agreeing to pay a $1 million ransom to his abductors, the FBI said today.
Six former South Korean military officers were arrested this week in New York City, Tokyo, Chicago and New Jersey and charged with kidnaping Pak, a former South Korean military attache.
Two of the alleged kidnapers are members of the controversial Unification Church, which the FBI said Pak has headed since the jailing in July of its leader, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, on an income tax evasion conviction.
However, Assistant FBI Director Lee Laster said in a news conference that the motive was unrelated to church or Korean politics. "We believe it was a strictly financial deal," he said.
The FBI said Pak agreed to transfer $500,000 to a Swiss bank account, but the transaction was foiled and the money was not sent.
A spokesman for The Washington Times said that Pak, who lives in McLean, "survived his ordeal in good health and spirits."
John M. Bray, Pak's attorney, said the kidnaping was "a very tough experience for him, but he is physically okay. He is very thankful and grateful he was able to come through it."
The FBI gave this account of Pak's kidnaping:
It began on a Sunday night, Sept. 23, when Pak went to the Grand Hyatt Hotel here to meet Yung Soo Suh, a Korean acquaintance who had invited him to dinner. Suh was identified by Laster as the "ringleader" of the alleged kidnapers.
In front of the hotel, Pak climbed into Suh's car, a blue Lincoln Continental. In the car, several Korean males pulled guns on him, handcuffed him and blindfolded him. Pak was driven to a small farmhouse in Slate Hill, N.Y., 50 miles north of New York City.
During his two-day captivity, his kidnapers threatened him with death and injury to his wife and eight children unless he agreed to transfer $1 million to a numbered Swiss bank account.
He was given electric shocks, and guns equipped with silencers were discharged near him to reinforce the threats.
On Tuesday Sept. 25, Pak agreed to transfer the money, but told his captors it had to be done from Washington, D.C. They drove him to LaGuardia Airport that morning where he boarded a plane, apparently alone. Once in Washington, he wired the first installment, $500,000, to a Swiss bank.
U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani said Pak was "sufficiently frightened" by the threats that he agreed to the extortion and did not notify the FBI upon his release.
Giuliani and Laster declined to say how the FBI discovered Pak had returned to Washington, although Giuliani said electronic surveillance was used during the course of the investigation. Other sources said the FBI was brought into the case when Pak did not show up for a U.S. Senate hearing on Sept. 25 in Washington.
"As soon as we saw him in Washington, we intervened and delayed the transaction the money transfer and the church canceled it," Assistant FBI Director Laster said.
According to the FBI, the six Korean nationals charged this week in the kidnaping were Suh, who was arrested in Tokyo; Gen. Sang Whi Nam, arrested at the New Yorker Hotel here, a residence for church members; Yung Keun Lee, arrested in Far Rockaway, N.Y.; Su Il Yi, arrested in Cliffside Park, N.J.; Hong Lim Park, arrested at his house in Fort Lee, N.J., and Hyun Tae Yoo, arrested in Chicago.
U.S. Attorney Giuliani said none of the men had criminal records as far as the FBI knows. The FBI did not reveal the occupations of the men except to say that Suh was a former army officer, while the others were former officers in the Korean marines.
"They were serious people," Guiliani said. "They were not amateurs at military matters." Joseph Happ, a spokesman for The Washington Times, said that Suh and Nam, the two church members, "had for a short time feigned an interest in Unification Church activities apparently to facilitate the abduction."
Giuliani said that Nam, who was arraigned today in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, had confessed. Nam was released on a $100,000 personal recognizance bond secured by 10 percent. He is said to have agreed to reside with his two sons in Brooklyn, who were appointed as custodians. The other defendants were expected to be arraigned by Thursday.
Pak cooperated fully with the FBI investigation, Giuliani said. "The FBI has done a superb job," said Bray, Pak's attorney.
Pak is chairman of News World Communicaations, which owns The Washington Times and the New York Tribune. As Moon's top deputy, he is also chairman of CAUSA international, the lobbying arm of the Unification Church that donates money to anticommunist causes and politicians.
The Unification Church, which Moon has said he founded in 1954 on divine instruction, claims 2 million to 3 million members worldwide, including 30,000 to 40,000 in the United States, of whom 8,000 are said to be full-time participants. Critics say those numbers are inflated.