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70 Years since Founding of Unification Church

Unification Church flag

70 years since Sun Myung Moon’s founding of Unification Church with a handful of followers

Sun Myung Moon and others in 1954
Sun Myung Moon (front in white shirt) in 1954 with some of those who founded the Unification Church: At the back from left: David Kim, Yo-han Lee, Chang-hwan Lee. Standing to the right: Hyo-won Eu. From the left: Jeong-hwa Park, Sun Myung Moon, unknown, unknown. Photo: FFWPU

70 years ago, on 1st May 1954, the movement that today is called Family Federation for World Peace and Unification was founded by Sun Myung Moon and four others in a small room in a tiny, humble house in Seoul, South Korea.

The scars from the Korean War were still visible throughout the city, and South Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world at the time, but it was there the organization with the ambitious name Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity was founded.

19 years had passed since Sun Myung Moon had been called by Jesus in April 1935 to the daunting task of completing what the Saviour had begun 2,000 years ago.

According to Father Moon, God did not originally want him to establish a separate movement to convey to his fellow human beings the extensive message that God had given him. God wanted the young Korean to first address the Christian world. God wanted Christianity to discover that Sun Myung Moon represented the fulfillment of their prophecies and hopes. What God had revealed to him were the answers to the unresolved mysteries of the Bible. With such expectations, God sent Father Moon to Christian churches in Korea.

Paek-mun Kim
Paek-moon Kim (1910-1990), founder of the Israel Monastery (Israel Jesus Church) in 1945. Photo: FFWPU

Some churches had even received parts of the message that God had given to Sun Myung Moon. During the Japanese occupation of Korea, several Christian leaders had received revelations that Korea was the new “Israel”, where the Second Advent of Christ would be born. Just as Jesus approached John the Baptist, the foremost representative of a living spirituality in Judea at that time, Sun Myung Moon approached the leaders of a spiritual Christianity that had not been subdued by the long-lasting oppression of the Japanese.

One of the influential Christian leaders Father Moon tried to work with was Paek-moon Kim (1910-1990), who had founded the Israel Monastery (Israel Jesus Church) in 1945. He was as important to Korea in 1945-46 as John the Baptist was to the Jewish world when Jesus began his public ministry.

There were many intellectuals and influential people in Pastor Kim’s church. Among them were the wife of the owner of the Chosun Ilbo, Korea’s most important newspaper, and the wife of Bom-seok Lee (1900-1972), a Korean independence activist who in 1948 became South Korea’s first prime minister. Pastor Kim taught that the Israel of our time, and the land where Christ’s second coming would take place, was Korea. Without the Baptist’s support, it became impossible for Jesus to bring the Jewish people with him. Without the support of key people like Paek-moon Kim, Sun Myung Moon had to walk a wilderness course.

Syngman Rhee and Francesca Donner
Key Christians in South Korea from 1945: Syngman Rhee (이승만 – 1875-1965) and his second wife Franziska Donner (1900-1992) from Austria. Photo: RR Auction / Wikimedia Commons. License: CC ASA 4.0 Int. Cropped

In Jesus’ time, the religious leaders had great power. Immediately after World War II, there was a similar situation in South Korea. The country was governed by Christians. Syngman Rhee, the first president, was himself a devout Christian with strong spiritual experiences. Thus, the conditions were set for all of South Korea to play a significant role in the establishment of God‘s kingdom.

God had chosen John the Baptist in Jesus’ time and given him incredible revelations and spiritual experiences. Yet he never followed Jesus and did not give him the support Jesus so desperately needed to build God‘s kingdom at that time. In 1945 in Korea, there were also several leaders whom God had chosen and given incredible revelations. Yet there was no one willing to follow Sun Myung Moon.

Instead, he soon faced terrible persecution. He describes the situation in his autobiography As a Peace-Loving Global Citizen,

Korean peninsula
Korean peninsula. Photo: Visviva /Wikimedia Commons License: CC ASA 3.0 Unp

“People from the established churches that had opposed me and thrown stones at me when I started a church in Pyongyang [in North Korea in 1946-1948] resumed their persecution, this time in Busan [in South Korea during and just after the Korean war].

Even before we had properly begun our church, they set out to give us trouble. Words like heretic and pseudo- were placed in front of my name so often that they seemed to become part of my name. Indeed, the phrase Sun Myung Moon came to be synonymous with heresy and pseudo-religion. It’s hard to even hear my name mentioned without these words.

By 1953, the persecution reached extremes. We closed the hut in Busan and moved first to Daegu and then to Seoul. In May of the following year, we rented a house in Seoul’s Bukhak Dong neighborhood, located near Jang-choong-dang Park, and hung out a sign that read ‘Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity’.

We chose this name to signify that we belonged to no denomination, and we certainly had no plans to create a new one. ‘World Christianity’ refers to all of Christianity worldwide and both past and present. ‘Unification’ reveals our purpose of oneness, and ‘Holy Spirit’ is used to denote harmony between the spiritual and physical worlds built on the love of the father-son relationship at the center.

Our name is meant to say, ‘The spiritual world, centering on God, is with us.’ In particular, unification represents my purpose to bring about God’s ideal world.” (page 119-120)

Jesus had revealed to the young Korean key insights that set him on the track of discovering what in his native Korean simply was called Wolli (principles or fundamentals) – a powerful and clear understanding of the physical and spiritual reality we all face and are challenged to master during our short earthly life.

The message he had already started to share in communist North Korea during the latter half of the 1940s, soon attracted followers. After the armistice in July 1953, members from the southern part of the peninsula that had not fallen to North Korea, started moving to Seoul along with the many refugees who had evacuated the capital during the 3-year long war.

HSA-UWC
The signboard that was put up on the first building used by the Unification Church in Seoul in 1954. Photo: FFWPU

Father Moon had to build his own foundation and start his own organization. Father Moon’s efforts both in South and North Korea to work together with the leaders of Korean Christianity had failed.

On 1st May 1954, he founded the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity (HSA-UWC) together with Chang-hwan Lee, Hyo-won Eu, David Kim, and Hyo-min Eu.

Place of founding of Unification Church
The House with 3 doors. Photo: FFWPU

They met in what became known as the “House with Three Doors” at 391 Bukhak-dong, Seongdong-gu in Seoul. With this address the movement was officially registered. On 3rd May, a sign bearing the ambitious name, in both Chinese characters and English, was displayed outside the humble house, which consisted of two rooms and a small kitchen.

Initially, the term “Unification Church” served as an unofficial moniker, but it eventually became the preferred name in various countries, supplanting the lengthier HSA-UWC designation.

From the same year, the movement experienced an explosive growth in membership and within five years it had sent representatives to Japan and the USA.

In 1996, the name was changed to Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.

Featured image above: The Unification Church flag. Photo: FFWPU

“70 Years since Founding of Unification Church”  – text: Knut Holdhus

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