Moon, North Korea, and the Bushes
by Robert Parry
Editor's Note: Given the nuclear crisis
involving North Korea, we are republishing, with minor revisions,
this six-year-old article about millions of dollars allegedly
funneled from the Rev. Sun Myung Moon - The Washington Times founder
and a Bush family financial backer - to leaders of North Korea's
communist dictatorship in the 1990s:
The Rev. Sun Myung Moon's business empire,
which includes the right-wing Washington Times, paid millions
of dollars to North Korea's communist leaders in the early 1990s
when the hard-line government needed foreign currency to finance
its weapons programs, according to U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency
The payments included a $3 million "birthday
present" to current communist leader Kim Jong Il and offshore
payments amounting to "several tens of million dollars"
to the previous communist dictator, Kim Il Sung, the documents
Moon apparently was seeking a business
foothold in North Korea, but the transactions also raised potential
legal questions for Moon, who appears to have defied U.S. embargos
on trade and financial relations with the Pyongyang government.
Those legal questions were never pursued, however, apparently
because of Moon's powerful political connections within the Republican
power structure of Washington, including financial and political
ties to the Bush family.
Besides making alleged payments to North
Korea's communist leaders, the 86-year-old founder of the South
Korean-based Unification Church has funneled large sums of money,
possibly millions of dollars, to former President George H.W.
One well-placed former leader of Moon's
Unification Church told me that the total earmarked for former
President Bush was $10 million. The father of the current U.S.
President has declined to say how much Moon's organization actually
paid him for speeches and other services in Asia, the United States
and South America.
At one Moon-sponsored speech in Argentina
in 1996, Bush declared, "I want to salute Reverend Moon,"
whom Bush praised as "the man with the vision."
Bush made these speeches at a time when
Moon was expressing intensely anti-American views. In his own
speeches, Moon termed the United States "Satan's harvest"
and claimed that American women descended from a "line of
During the pivotal presidential campaign
in 2000, Moon's Washington Times alsoattacked the Clinton-Gore
administration for failing to take more aggressive steps to block
North Korea's military research and development. The newspaper
called the Clinton-Gore administration's decisions an "abdication
of responsibility for national security."
A Helping Hand
Yet, in the 1990s when North Korea was
scrambling for the resources to develop missiles and nuclear technology,
Moon was among a small group of outside businessmen quietly investing
in North Korea.
Moon's activities attracted the attention
of the Defense Intelligence Agency, which is responsible for monitoring
potential military threats to the United States.
Though historically an ardent anticommunist,
Moon negotiated a business deal in 1991 with Kim Il Sung, the
longtime communist leader, the DIA documents said.
The deal called for construction of a
hotel complex in Pyongyang as well as a new Holy Land at the site
of Moon's birth in North Korea, one document said. The DIA said
the deal sprang from face-to-face negotiations between Moon and
Kim Il Sung in North Korea from Nov. 30 to Dec. 8, 1991.
"These talks took place secretly,
without the knowledge of the South Korean government," the
DIA wrote on Feb. 2, 1994. "In the original deal with Kim
[Il Sung], Moon paid several tens of million dollars as a down-payment
into an overseas account," the DIA said in a cable dated
Aug. 14, 1994.
The DIA said Moon's organization also
delivered money to Kim Il Sung's son and successor, Kim Jong Il.
"In 1993, the Unification Church
sold a piece of property located in Pennsylvania," the DIA
reported on Sept. 9, 1994. "The profit on the sale, approximately
$3 million was sent through a bank in China to the Hong Kong branch
of the KS [South Korean] company 'Samsung Group.' The money was
later presented to Kim Jung Il [Kim Jong Il] as a birthday present."
After Kim Il Sung's death in 1994 and
his succession by his son, Kim Jong Il, Moon dispatched his longtime
aide, Bo Hi Pak, to ensure that the business deals were still
on track with Kim Jong Il "and his coterie," the DIA
"If necessary, Moon authorized Pak
to deposit a second payment for Kim Jong Il," the DIA wrote.
The DIA declined to elaborate on the documents
that it released to me under a Freedom of Information Act request
in 2000. "As for the documents you have, you have to draw
your own conclusions," said DIA spokesman, U.S. Navy Capt.
Moon's Right-Hand Man
Contacted in Seoul, South Korea, in fall
2000, Bo Hi Pak, a former publisher of The Washington Times, denied
that payments were made to individual North Korean leaders and
called "absolutely untrue" the DIA's description of
the $3 million land sale benefiting Kim Jong Il.
But Bo Hi Pak acknowledged that Moon met
with North Korean officials and negotiated business deals with
them in the early 1990s. Pak said the North Korean business investments
were structured through South Korean entities.
"Rev. Moon is not doing this in his
own name," said Pak.
Pak said he went to North Korea in 1994,
after Kim Il Sung's death, only to express "condolences"
to Kim Jong Il on behalf of Moon and his wife. Pak denied that
another purpose of the trip was to pass money to Kim Jong Il or
to his associates.
Asked about the seeming contradiction
between Moon's avowed anti-communism and his friendship with leaders
of a communist state, Pak said, "This is time for reconciliation.
We're not looking at ideological differences. We are trying to
help them out" with food and other humanitarian needs.
Samsung officials said they could find
no information in their files about the alleged $3 million payment.
North Korean officials clearly valued
their relationship with Moon. In February of 2000, on Moon's 80th
birthday, Kim Jong Il sent Moon a gift of rare wild ginseng, an
aromatic root used medicinally, Reuters reported.
Because of the long-term U.S. embargo
against North Korea, Moon's alleged payments to the communist
leaders raised potential legal issues for Moon, a South Korean
citizen who is a U.S. permanent resident alien.
"Nobody in the United States was
supposed to be providing funding to anybody in North Korea, period,
under the Treasury (Department's) sanction regime," said
Jonathan Winer, former deputy assistant secretary of state handling
The U.S. embargo of North Korea dates
back to the Korean War. With a few exceptions for humanitarian
goods, the embargo barred trade and financial dealings between
North Korea and "all U.S. citizens and permanent residents
wherever they are located, and all branches, subsidiaries and
controlled affiliates of U.S. organizations throughout the world."
Moon became a permanent resident of the
United States in 1973, according to Justice Department records.
Bo Hi Pak said Moon has kept his "green card" status.
Though often in South Korea and South America, Moon maintained
a residence near Tarrytown, north of New York City, and controls
dozens of affiliated U.S. companies.
Direct payments to foreign leaders in
connection with business deals also could have prompted questions
about possible violations of the U.S. Corrupt Practices Act, a
prohibition against overseas bribery.
(But in the six years since we disclosed
the Moon-North Korean payments, George W. Bush's administration
has taken no legal action against Moon. Meanwhile, Moon's Washington
Times has been one of Bush's most consistent and aggressive backers
in the U.S. news media.)
Moon's followers regard him as the second
Messiah and grant him broad power over their lives, even letting
him pick their spouses. Critics, including ex-Unification Church
members, have accused Moon of brainwashing young recruits and
living extravagantly while his followers have little.
Around the world, Moon's business relationships
long have been cloaked in secrecy. His sources of money have been
mysteries, too, although witnesses - including his former daughter-in-law
- have come forward in recent years and alleged criminal money-laundering
within the organization.
Moon "demonstrated contempt for U.S.
law every time he accepted a paper bag full of untraceable, undeclared
cash collected from true believers" who carried the money
in from overseas, wrote his ex-daughter-in-law, Nansook Hong,
in her 1998 book, In the Shadows of the Moons.
Since Moon stepped onto the international
stage in the 1970s, he has used his fortune to build political
alliances and to finance media, academic and political institutions.
In 1978, Moon was identified by the congressional
"Koreagate" investigation as an operative of the South
Korean CIA and part of an influence-buying scheme aimed at the
U.S. government. Moon denied the charges.
Though Moon later was convicted on federal
tax evasion charges, his political influence continued to grow
when he founded The Washington Times in 1982. The unabashedly
right-wing newspaper won favor with presidents Ronald Reagan and
George H.W. Bush by backing their policies and hammering their
In 1988, when then-Vice President Bush
was trailing early in the presidential race, the Times spread
a baseless rumor that the Democratic presidential nominee Michael
Dukakis had undergone psychiatric treatment. The Moon-affiliated
American Freedom Coalition also distributed millions of pro-Bush
The elder George Bush personally expressed
his gratitude. When Wesley Pruden was appointed The Washington
Times' editor-in-chief in 1991, Bush invited Pruden to a private
White House lunch "just to tell you how valuable the Times
has become in Washington, where we read it every day." [Washington
Times, May 17, 1992].
While Bush was hosting Pruden in the White
House, Pruden's boss was opening his financial and business channels
to North Korea. According to the DIA, Moon's North Korean deal
was ambitious and expensive.
"There was an agreement regarding
economic cooperation for the reconstruction of KN's [North Korea's]
economy which included establishment of a joint venture to develop
tourism at Kimkangsan, KN [North Korea]; investment in the Tumangang
River Development; and investment to construct the light industry
base at Wonsan, KN. It is believed that during their meeting Mun
[Moon] donated 450 billion yen to KN," one DIA report said.
In late 1991, the Japanese yen traded
at about 130 yen to the U.S. dollar, meaning Moon's investment
would have been about $3.5 billion, if the DIA information is
Moon's aide Pak denied that Moon's investments
ever approached that size. Though Pak did not give an overall
figure, he said the initial phase of an automobile factory was
in the range of $3 million to $6 million.
The DIA depicted Moon's business plans
in North Korea as much grander. The DIA valued the agreement for
hotels in Pyongyang and the resort in Kumgang-san, alone, at $500
million. The plans also called for creation of a kind of Vatican
City covering Moon's birthplace.
"In consideration of Mun's [Moon's]
economic cooperation, Kim [Il Sung] granted Mun a 99-year lease
on a 9 square kilometer parcel of land located in Chongchu, Pyonganpukto,
KN. Chongchu is Mun's birthplace and the property will be used
as a center for the Unification Church. It is being referred to
as the Holy Land by Unification Church believers and Mun [h]as
been granted extraterritoriality during the life of the lease."
North Korea granted Moon some smaller
favors, too. Four months after Moon's meeting with Kim Il Sung,
editors from The Washington Times were allowed to interview the
reclusive North Korean communist leader in what the Times called
"the first interview he has granted to an American newspaper
in many years."
Later in 1992, the Times was again rallying
to President George H.W. Bush's defense. The newspaper stepped
up attacks against Iran-Contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh
as his investigation homed in on Bush and his inner circle. Walsh
considered the Times' relentless criticism a distraction to the
criminal investigation, according to his book, Firewall.
That fall, in the 1992 campaign, the Times
turned its editorial guns on Bush's new rival, Bill Clinton. Some
of the anti-Clinton articles raised questions about Clinton's
patriotism, even suggesting that the Rhodes scholar might have
been recruited as a KGB agent during a collegiate trip to Moscow.
A Bush Salute
George H.W. Bush's loss of the White House
did not end his relationship with Moon's organization. Out of
office, Bush agreed to give paid speeches to Moon-supported groups
in the United States, Asia and South America. In some cases, Barbara
Bush joined in the events.
During this period, Moon grew increasingly
hateful about the United States and many of its ideals.
In a speech to his followers on Aug. 4,
1996, Moon vowed to liquidate American individuality, declaring
that his movement would "swallow entire America." Moon
said Americans who insisted on "their privacy and extreme
individualism will be digested."
Nevertheless, former President Bush continued
to work for Moon's organization. In November 1996, the former
U.S. President spoke at a dinner in Buenos Aires, Argentina, launching
Moon's South American newspaper, Tiempos del Mundo.
"I want to salute Reverend Moon,"
Bush declared, according to a transcript of the speech published
in The Unification News, an internal church newsletter.
"A lot of my friends in South America
don't know about The Washington Times, but it is an independent
voice," Bush said. "The editors of The Washington Times
tell me that never once has the man with the vision interfered
with the running of the paper, a paper that in my view brings
sanity to Washington, D.C."
Contrary to Bush's claim, a number of
senior editors and correspondents have resigned in protest of
editorial interference from Moon's operatives. Bush has refused
to say how much he was paid for the speech in Buenos Aires or
others in Asia and the United States.
Going After Gore
During the 2000 election cycle, Moon's
newspaper took up the cause of Bush's son and mounted harsh attacks
against his rival, Vice President Al Gore.
In 1999, the Times played a prominent
role in promoting a bogus quote attributed to Gore about his work
on the toxic waste issue. In a speech in Concord, N.H., Gore had
referred to a toxic waste case in Toone, Tennessee, and said,
"that was the one that started it all."
The New York Times and The Washington
Post garbled the quote, claiming that Gore had said, "I was
the one that started it all."
The Washington Times took over from there,
accusing Gore of being clinically "delusional." The
Times called the Vice President "a politician who not only
manufactures gross, obvious lies about himself and his achievements
but appears to actually believe these confabulations." [Washington
Times, Dec. 7, 1999]
Even after other papers corrected the
false quote, The Washington Times continued to use it. The notion
of Gore as an exaggerator, often based on this and other mis-reported
incidents, became a powerful Republican "theme" as Texas
Gov. Bush surged ahead of Gore in the presidential preference
Republicans also made the North Korean
threat an issue against the Clinton-Gore administration. In 1999,
a report by a House Republican task force warned that during the
1990s, North Korea and its missile program emerged as a nuclear
threat to Japan and possibly the Pacific Northwest of the United
"This threat has advanced considerably
over the past five years, particularly with the enhancement of
North Korea's missile capabilities," the Republican task
force said. "Unlike five years ago, North Korea can now strike
the United States with a missile that could deliver high explosive,
chemical, biological, or possibly nuclear weapons."
Moon's newspaper joined in excoriating
the Clinton-Gore administration for postponing a U.S. missile
defense system to counter missiles from North Korea and other
"rogue states." Gov. Bush favored such a system.
"To its list of missed opportunities,
the Clinton-Gore administration can now add the abdication of
responsibility for national security," a Times editorial
"By deciding not to begin construction
of the Alaskan radar, Mr. Clinton has indisputably delayed eventual
deployment beyond 2005, when North Korea is estimated to be capable
of launching an intercontinental missile against the United States."
[Washington Times, Sept. 5, 2000]
The Washington Times did not note that
its founder - who has continued to subsidize the newspaper with
tens of millions of dollars a year - had defied a U.S. trade embargo
aimed at containing the military ambitions of North Korea.
By supplying money at a time when North
Korea was desperate for hard currency, Moon helped deliver the
means for the communist state to advance exactly the strategic
threat that Moon's newspaper chastised the Clinton-Gore administration
for failing to thwart.
That money bought Moon influence inside
North Korea. The Korean theocrat also appears to have secured
crucial protection from George W. Bush's administration, after
investing wisely for many years in the President's family.
[For more details on the Moon-Bush connection,
see Robert Parry's Secrecy & Privilege. To see two of the
DIA documents, click here.]
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra
stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His
latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty
from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com.
It's also available at Amazon.com, as is his 1999 book, Lost History:
Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'
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