Timeline of the Unification Church

The Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, or Unificationism,[1][2] is a new religious movement founded in South Korea in 1954 by Sun Myung Moon. It is more commonly known as the Unification Church.

Since its founding, it has expanded to most nations of the world,[3][4][5][6][7] has sponsored many organizations and projects over the years; including businesses, news media, projects in education and the arts, and political and social activism. It has also been the object of criticism and controversy.


On February 25, 1920, Moon was born Mun Yong-myeong in modern-day Sangsa-ri (上思里), Deogun-myon, Jeongju-gun, North P'yŏng'an Province, at a time when Korea was under Japanese rule. Moon's birthday was recorded as January 6 by the traditional lunar calendar (February 25, 1920, according to the Gregorian Calendar).[8][9]


Around 1930 Moon's family, who followed traditional Confucianist beliefs, converted to Christianity and joined the Presbyterian Church, where he later taught Sunday school.[10]

Unification Church members believe that Jesus appeared to Mun Yong-myong (his birth name) when Moon was 15 on April 17, 1935, and asked him to accomplish the work left unfinished after his crucifixion. After a period of prayer and consideration, Moon accepted the mission, later changing his name to Mun Son-myong (Moon Sun-myung or Sun Myung Moon).[11]


In November 1943, Moon married Sun Kil Choi.[12]

In 1943, Hak Ja Han, Moon's future wife, was born in North Korea.[13][14]

After World War II and the Japanese occupation ended in 1945, Moon began preaching his message.[10]

In 1946, Moon traveled alone to Pyongyang in Communist-ruled North Korea.[15] Moon was arrested on allegations of spying for South Korea and given a five-year sentence to the Hŭngnam labor camp.[16]


In 1950, after serving 34 months of his sentence, Moon was released from North Korea during the Korean War when United Nations troops advanced on the camp and the guards fled.[17]

In 1953, Moon divorced Choi.[12] It is also reported that he had a child with a different woman in 1954.[18][19][20]

Moon built his first church as a refugee in Pusan before formally founding "The Holy Spirit(ual) Association for the Unification of World Christianity" in Seoul on May 1, 1954. The church expanded rapidly in South Korea and by the end of 1955 had 30 church centers throughout the nation.[17]

He published the foundation book of the church, Wolli Hesol, or Explanation of the Divine Principle, in 1957.[17]

In 1958, Moon sent missionaries to Japan, and in 1959, to the United States.[17]


Moon married his second wife, Hak Ja Han, on April 11, 1960, soon after she turned 17 years old, in a ceremony called the Holy Marriage. Han, called Mother or True Mother by followers, and her husband together are referred to as the True Parents by members of the Unification Church. Han gave birth to 14 children; her second daughter died in infancy. The family is known in the church as the True Family and the children as the True Children.[21]

In 1961 Moon established the Unification Church wedding or marriage rededication ceremony, known as the "Blessing." It is given to married (or engaged) couples. The first Blessing ceremony was held for 36 couples in Seoul, South Korea by the Moons shortly after their own marriage in 1960. All the couples were members of the church. Rev. Moon matched all of the couples except 12 who were already married to each other before joining the church.[22][23]

In 1962, Moon and other church members founded the Little Angels Children’s Folk Ballet of Korea, a children's dance troop which presents traditional Korean folk dances. He said that this was to project a positive image of South Korea to the world.[24]

Moon also sent missionaries to Europe. The church entered Czechoslovakia in 1968 and remained underground until the 1990s.[25]


By 1971, the Unification Church of the United States had about 500 members. By 1973, the church had some presence in all 50 states and a few thousand members.[17]

In the 1970s the Unification church, along with some other new religious movements, became a target of the anti-cult movement. On the basis of theories that have not gained acceptance in mainline social science,[26] "anti-cult" activists accused the church of having "brainwashed" its members.[27] At the same time, members of the Unification Church reported that they were kidnapped and forcibly "deprogrammed" by those who wanted to pull them out of the Unification Church.[28]

In 1972, Moon held the first International Conference on the Unity of the Sciences.[29][30] The first conference had 20 participants, while the largest conference in Seoul in 1982, had 808 participants from over 100 countries.[31][32]

In 1974, Moon asked church members in the United States to support President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal when Nixon was being pressured to resign his office. On February 1, 1974 Nixon publicly thanked them for their support and officially received Moon. This brought the church into widespread public and media attention.[33]

In the 1970s, Moon gave a series of public speeches in the United States, including one in Madison Square Garden in New York City in 1974 and two in 1976: in Yankee Stadium in New York City, and on the grounds of the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., where Moon spoke on "God's Hope for America" to 300,000 people. In 1975, the Unification Church held one of the largest peaceful gatherings in history, with 1.2 million people in Yoido, South Korea.[34]

In 1975, Moon sent out missionaries to 120 countries. Unification Church activity in South America began in the 1970s with missionary work. Later, the church made large investments in civic organizations and business projects, including an international newspaper.[35]

In 1975, Moon founded the International Relief and Friendship Foundation,[36] a charitable fund that co-sponsors UN and UNESCO programs[37][38] to implement the Millennium Development Goals in the Middle East, Haiti, and Africa.[39][40][41][42]

In 1975 Moon founded the Unification Theological Seminary (UTS), in Barrytown, New York. Its purpose has been described as training leaders and theologians within the Unification Church.[43][44]

In 1976 News World Communications was founded in New York City by Moon. Its first two newspapers, The News World (later renamed the New York City Tribune) and the Spanish-language Noticias del Mundo, were published in New York from 1976 until the early 1990s.[45][46]

In 1976 the American Jewish Committee released a report which stated that Divine Principle contained "pejorative language, stereotyped imagery, and accusations of collective sin and guilt."[47][48] This was disputed by Mose Durst, the president of the Unification Church of the United States and himself a convert from Judaism.[49][50][51]

In 1977 representatives from the American Jewish Committee, the National Council of Churches, and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York held a press conference to say that the Divine Principle contains antisemitic references and heresy.[52] In response Durst, Peter Ross, and Andrew Wilson expressed regret over some members' misunderstanding of Judaism and urged better relations with the Jewish community.[53][54][55]


In 1980 Moon asked church members to found CAUSA International, an anti-communist educational organization based in New York.[56][57]

In 1982 the first large scale Blessing ceremony held outside of Korea took place in Madison Square Garden in New York City with 2075 couples. In 1988, Moon matched 2,500 Korean members with Japanese members for a Blessing ceremony held in Korea, partly in order to promote unity between the two nations.[58][59]

In 1982, Moon sponsored the US$50 million movie Inchon about the Korean War. However it was not a commercial success.[60][61][62][63]

In 1982 News World Communications founded The Washington Times in Washington D.C.

In 1982, Moon was convicted in the United States of filing false federal income tax returns and conspiracy: see United States v. Sun Myung Moon. He served 13 months of the sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution, Danbury.[64][65] The case was protested as a case of selective prosecution and a threat to religious freedom by, among others, Jerry Falwell, head of Moral Majority, Joseph Lowery, head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Harvey Cox a Professor of Divinity at Harvard, and Eugene McCarthy, United States Senator and former Democratic Party presidential candidate.[66][67]

In 1984 British sociologist Eileen Barker published The Making of a Moonie: Choice or Brainwashing?, based on her seven-year study of Unification Church members in the United Kingdom and the United States.[68] She rejected the then popular "brainwashing" theory as an explanation for conversion to the Unification Church.[69] The book was given the Distinguished Book Award for 1985 by the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion.[70]

In August 1985, seven years before the fall of Soviet Union, the Professors World Peace Academy, an organization founded by Moon, sponsored a conference in Geneva to debate the theme "The situation in the world after the fall of the communist empire." The conference was chaired by professors Morton Kaplan and Aleksandras Štromas.[71]

In 1987, church member and documentary filmmaker Lee Shapiro was killed in Afghanistan during the Soviet war in Afghanistan.[72][73]

In 1987, scholars with American Psychological Association rejected the hypotheses of those who accused the Unification Church of brainwashing and coercive persuasion, stating that their "conclusions...cannot be said to be scientific in any meaningful sense".[74]

In 1989, Moon founded Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma Korean football team.[75]


In April 1990 Moon visited the Soviet Union and met with President Mikhail Gorbachev. Moon expressed support for the political and economic transformations under way in the Soviet Union. At the same time the Unification Church was expanding into formerly communist nations.[76]

In 1990, Unification Church founded its $8m Universal Ballet project, with Soviet-born Oleg Vinogradov as its art director and Julia Moon as its prima ballerina. At the opening ceremony, letters of congratulation from President Bush and John Frohnmayer, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, were read.[77]

In 1991 Moon met with Kim Il Sung, the North Korean President, to discuss ways to achieve peace on the Korean peninsula, as well as on international relations, tourism, etc.[78]

In 1991 Moon announced that church members should return to their hometowns and undertake apostolic work there. Massimo Introvigne, who studied the Unification Church and other new religious movements, said that this confirmed that full-time membership is no longer considered crucial to church members.[17]

In 1992 Moon gave the wedding blessing for the 30,000 couples at the Seoul Olympic Stadium.[79] Three years later he did it again for 360,000 couples here.[80]

In 1992 Han founded the Women's Federation for World Peace (WFWP), an organization whose stated purpose is to encourage women to work more actively in promoting peace in their communities and greater society. It has members in 143 countries.[81][82][83]

As of December 1994, Unification Church had invested $150 million in Uruguay. Members own the country's largest hotel, one of its leading banks, the second-largest newspaper and two of the largest printing plants.[84]

In 1994, Moon was officially invited to the funeral of Kim Il Sung, in spite of the absence of diplomatic relations between North Korea and South Korea.[85]

In 1996 the News World Communications founded Tiempos Del Mundo, a newspaper in Spanish circulating in 16 countries of Latin America.[86]

In 1998 Irving Louis Horowitz, sociologist, questioned the relationship between the Unification Church and scholars whom it paid to conduct research on its behalf.[87]

In 1998, Unification Movement forgave a $90 million loan to the University of Bridgeport and donated an additional $15 million.[88]

In 1998, the Unification Movement launched operations in North Korea with the approval of the Government of South Korea, which had prohibited business relationships between North and South before;[89] and built a church there.[90]


Moon giving a public speech in Las Vegas, Nevada, April 4, 2010

In 2000 the Unification Church co-sponsored the Million Family March, a rally in Washington D.C to celebrate family unity and racial and religious harmony, along with the Nation of Islam.[91] Louis Farrakhan was the main speaker at the event which was held on October 16, 2000; the fifth anniversary of the Million Man March, which was also organized by Farrakhan.[92]

Since 2000, Unification Church's Pyeonghwa Motors has invested more than $300 million to the automobile industry of North Korea.[93] In 2000, "an event of historical importance" occurred, according to a live broadcast for the state-owned Korea Broadcasting System, as 78 North Korean girls and boys arrived at the Unification Church's cross-cultural "ice-breaker" event, where guests such as the minister of unification, Park Jae-Kyu, and the minister of culture, Park Jie Won were present.[94]

In 2000 News World Communications bought the news agency United Press International.[95]

In 2001, the Roman Catholic Church archbishop Emmanuel Milingo was wed by Moon with a Unification Church member in a Blessing ceremony. This was opposed by Catholic authorities, including Pope John Paul II.[96]

In 2003, on notification by the Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, about 500 Christians, Muslims, Jews and other international and interfaith tourists joined the Unification Church Middle East Peace Initiative "to such a degree that the Old Gates were opened by the Israeli police near the Wailing Wall, and by the Muslim leadership at Al Aqsa, without incident", as the official UN-report says.[97]

In 2003, Unification Church held the Interreligious Peace Sports Festival between the people of various faiths, which is, according to the UNESCO official data, "an annual sporting event designed to build and promote friendship and peace among people from different cultural and religious backgrounds using the powerful medium of sports competition". The college team of Sun Moon University, which some described as the best in South Korea won the tournament.[98][99]

In 2003 Moon sponsored the first Peace Cup international club football tournament.[100][101][102] The Los Angeles Galaxy, which competes in Major League Soccer, played in South Korea in the Peace Cup.[103] During the event Pelé, widely regarded as the best soccer player of all time and former Brazilian Sports Minister, met with Moon.[104]

In 2003, Korean Unification Church members started a political party in South Korea. It was named "The Party for God, Peace, Unification, and Home." In an inauguration declaration, the new party said it would focus on preparing for the reunification of the South and North Korea by educating the public about God and peace.[105]

In 2004, at a ceremony on March 23 in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, in Washington, D.C., Moon crowned himself with what was called the "Crown of Peace."[106][107] Law makers who attended included Senator Mark Dayton (D-Minn.), Representatives Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), as well as former Representative Walter Fauntroy (D-D.C.) . Key organizers of the event included George Augustus Stallings, Jr., a former Roman Catholic priest who had been married by Moon, and Michael Jenkins, the president of the Unification Church of the United States at that time.[106] Rep. Danny K. Davis played an active role in the ceremony.[107]

In April 2008, Moon appointed his youngest son Hyung Jin Moon to be the new leader of the Unification Church and the worldwide Unification Movement, saying, "I hope everyone helps him so that he may fulfill his duty as the successor of the True Parents."[108]

On July 19, 2008, Moon, Han, and fourteen others were slightly injured when their Sikorsky S-92 helicopter crashed during an emergency landing and burst into flames in Gapyeong.[109][110]

In 2009, Moon presided over a Blessing ceremony for 40,000 people on the campus of the Sunmoon University; the ceremony was supported by Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Korea.[111]

In 2009 Moon visited England with his family while his son Hyung Jin Moon was greeted by parliamentarians and gave a speech in the British Parliament.[112]

In 2009, Moon's autobiography, As a Peace-Loving Global Citizen (Korean: 평화를 사랑하는 세계인으로),[113] was published by Gimm-Young Publishers in South Korea. The book became a bestseller in Korea and Japan.[114][115][116][117]

In 2009 during the preparation of North Korea national football team to World Cup 2010, Moon brought his Clube Atlético Sorocaba to Pyeongyang and organized a friendly match between them, which was reportedly described as a "gift" to North Koreans.[118]


In 2011, construction of $18 million Yeosu Expo Hotel was completed; the hotel located at Moon-owned The Ocean Resort in Yeosu, the venue of the Expo 2012.[119] The opening ceremony was attended by the governor of the relevant province.[119][120] Another one, The Ocean Hotel, was completed in February 2012, and its opening ceremony was also attended by the governor and the president of Expo 2012 organizing committee.[121] According to his followers, "Rev. Moon believes that fish can provide food for the entire world "[122] and "Rev. Moon is just very interested in the ocean. He feels It's the last frontier on this Earth, and one that is extremely necessary in putting this Earth back into Its orbit". The seavilization-themed Yeosu Expo 2012 is titled "The Living Ocean and Coast: Diversity of Resources and Sustainable Activities".[123]

In December 2011 in Pyongyang, to mark the 20th anniversary of Sun Myung Moon's visit to the North Korea, de jure President Kim Yong Nam hosted the younger son of Sun Myung Moon's in the official residence.[124][125] The church donated 600 tons of flour to North Korean children of Jeongju Province, the birthplace of Sun Myung Moon.[126][127] Also, after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, it donated $1.7 million to the Japanese Red Cross.[128][129]

On August 15, 2012, Moon was reported to be gravely ill and was put on a respirator at the intensive care unit of St. Mary’s Hospital at The Catholic University of Korea in Seoul. He was admitted on August 14, 2012, after suffering from pneumonia earlier in the month.[130] He died on September 2, 2012.

Moon was posthumously awarded North Korea's National Reunification Prize in 2012[131] and a meritorious award by K-League.[132][133] On the first anniversary of Moon's death, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un expressed condolences to Han and the family saying: "Kim Jong-un prayed for the repose of Moon, who worked hard for national concord, prosperity and reunification and world peace."[134]


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    a. The Unification Church has a seminary in Barrytown, New York called The Unification Theological Seminary.
    b. It is used as a theological training center, where members are prepared to be leaders and theologians in the church.
    c. Since many people regard Moon as a cult leader, there is a false impression that this seminary is academically weak.
    d. Moon’s seminary, however, has not only attracted a respectable faculty (many of whom are not members of his church), but it also has graduated many students (who are members of his church) who have been accepted into doctoral programs at institutions such as Harvard and Yale."
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