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Sun Myung Moon

Sun Myung Moon (문선명; 文鮮明) (born January 6, 1920) is a Reverend and founder of the Unification Church (established on May 1, 1954, in Seoul, South Korea). He was born in what is now North Korea.

As a youngster, Moon was known for his cheerful attitude, as well as his intolerance of injustice, characteristics he maintains into his eighties.

When he was 15 years old (16 by Korean reckoning), he had a vision or revelation of Jesus Christ while praying on top of a tall hill. In this vision, he says Jesus passed on to him the mission to be the Messiah.

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Sun Myung Moon has been imprisoned six times: twice in North Korea, three times in South Korea, and once in the United States. Members of the Unification Church generally consider these examples of religious persecution[?].

He was jailed by North Korea for preaching Christianity, which is officially forbidden by the communist government. Police beat him and left him for dead, but a disciple nursed him back to health.

The second time, Rev. Moon got a five-year sentence in Heung-Nam labor camp, where prisoners were routinely worked to death on short rations. After serving 2 years, 10 months of his sentence, he was liberated when UN troops advanced on the camp and the guards fled.

In South Korea, Rev. Moon was imprisoned three times, one of which was for counterfeiting, using North Korean money during the civil war. He was released when one of his old schoolteachers vouched for him. He was also charged with draft evasion; these charges were eventually dropped.

The sixth time Rev. Moon was imprisoned was in the United States on charges of tax evasion.

Tax case

In 1982 U.S. federal prosecutors charged Rev. Sun Myung Moon with criminal tax fraud, and a federal Grand Jury brought forward an indictment. The charges stated that Moon failed to declare as income (and pay taxes on) $112,000 in earned interest on a Chase Manhattan bank account, $50,000 of corporate stock.

Rev. Moon's chief defense was his contention that he was holding the money and stock on behalf of his church and thus that it wasn't actually his.

The prosecution maintained that both the money and stock were his personal property.

The judge forbade any mention of religion at the trial and denied Moon's request to have a bench trial.

Upon arriving in the United States in the early 1970s, Rev. Moon had established an account at Chase Manhattan Bank with approximately one million dollars in funds.

One of the defenses used at trial was that the funds were not really his, but were held in trust for members of the Japanese Unification Church. The United States church had only about 300 members at the time and had not yet incorporated. Moon claimed that, after using a small portion of those funds for his family's living expenses (and declaring the portion used on his income tax returns), he transferred the balance to the Unification Church of America after its incorporation. Holding church funds in a minister's name is a fairly commonplace action, particularly in small churches, and many churches filed amicus curiae briefs in Moon's support.

There was quite a bit of sentiment against Moon and his church in the United States at that time. Moon and his supporters felt that they were being specifically targetted because of their religious beliefs and practices. The opposition claimed that Moon was a con artist and that his organization was a criminal enterprise.

The government offered to drop all the charges if Rev. Moon would give up his green card (permanent resident visa) and agree never to visit the US again. Rev. Moon preferred to go to trial, professing his belief in the fairness of American justice but saying that he would not have been prosecuted if "his skin had been white or his religion Episcopalian."

The jury determined that Moon's failure to pay taxes was an intentional evasion rather than a misunderstanding of the law. The charge of criminal tax fraud carries a high legal requirement -- the prosecution must prove to a jury, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant intended to evade paying taxes, not simply that the taxes were unpaid due to a mistake or failure to understand the law.

Moon was convicted of the charges, and given an 18 month sentence and a $15,000 fine. He served 13 months of the sentence at Danbury minimum-security prison and because of "good behavior" was released to a half-way house.


The Chinese character for "Moon" (文), the reverend's surname, means "word" or "truth" in Korean. The character "myung" (明), part of his given name, means "bright" or "shining", and is composed of the Chinese characters for sun and moon, so word play on Rev. Moon's name provides a source of innocent merriment.


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