At this past week's summit, George W. Bush and South Korean President Kim Dae Jung disagreed publicly on how to deal with communist North Korea - Bush advocated a harder line. But the two leaders have a little-known bond in common: the political largesse of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.
For more than three decades, Moon, the founder of the South Korea-based Unification Church, has spun a worldwide spider's web of influence, connecting to hundreds of powerful leaders through the silken threads of his mysterious money.
Moon's beneficiaries include the Bush family and, according to U.S. intelligence reports, Kim Dae Jung. Though seldom discussed publicly, the Moon-Bush connection has been reported before - and detailed in this publication. But Moon's financial links to Kim Dae Jung - a longtime dissident who opposed the authoritarian governments that ruled South Korea during the Cold War - have remained secret.
U.S. intelligence stumbled onto the Moon-Kim connection while monitoring South Korean political developments in 1987. By that time, Moon's Unification Church already had built close ties to the Reagan-Bush administration, especially through Moon's funding of conservative causes and his $100-million-a-year subsidy of the right-wing Washington Times, hailed by Ronald Reagan as his "favorite" newspaper.
Back in South Korea, however, Moon's longtime coziness with his home nation's autocratic rulers was strained. Moon was on the outs with the ruling Democratic Justice Party (DJP), the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency noted in a cable dated Sept. 10, 1987.
"The UC (Unification Church) ... has not been happy with the somewhat cold treatment it has received under the current DJP government," the DIA cable reported.
In response to this chilliness, Moon secretly began financing several opposition figures, the DIA reported. One was a longtime Moon ally, Kim Jong Pil, not to be confused with North Korea's current leader Kim Jong Il.
By the late 1980s, Kim Jong Pil had a long record of association with Moon. A 1978 U.S. congressional investigation into the so-called "Koreagate" influence-buying scandal reported that Kim Jong Pil founded the South Korean CIA in the 1960s and assisted Moon's Unification Church in building its influence in Japan and the United States.
The congressional investigation concluded that Kim Jong Pil and the South Korean CIA helped Moon expand his church into a well-financed international organization. They then used Moon's organization to buy influence inside the U.S. government, the congressional investigation found.
Kim Jong Pil also had served as South Korean prime minister in the early 1970s. In 1987, however, Kim Jong Pil was out of power and considering a run for the South Korean presidency.
According to the Defense Intelligence Agency, Kim Jong Pil was one of the candidates who benefited from Moon's estrangement from the ruling Democratic Justice Party.
"Kim Jong-Pil is reportedly receiving financial and organizational support for his KS (South Korean) presidential bid from the controversial Unification Church," the DIA reported in its Sept. 10, 1987, cable. But Moon's organization did not stop with its old ally. The DIA discovered that Moon was hedging his bets by putting money into the hands of Kim Dae Jung and other leaders of the Reunification Democratic Party.
"Cult trying to win influence with the next KS government while defeating the current ruling party's candidate," read the title of another DIA report dated Sept. 22, 1987.
"The controversial Unification Church (UC) is actively funneling large amounts of political funds to opposition Reunification Democratic Party (RDP) advisor Kim Dae-Jung, ... RDP president Kim Young-Sam, ... and former KS prime minister Kim Jong-Pil for their campaigns for KS president, leaving out only the ruling party candidate, Democratic Justice Party (DJP) president Roh Tae-Woo," the DIA report said.
"The UC wants to see Roh defeated and is funneling large amounts of political funds to Roh's three opponents with the expectation that it will have influence with whomever of the three should end up as the next president." [I obtained these DIA reports under a Freedom of Information Act request.]
Eventually, the race boiled down to a contest between Roh Tae Woo, Kim Dae Jung and Kim Young Sam. On Dec. 16, 1987, Roh won with 36 percent of the vote. Kim Young Sam got 28 percent and Kim Dae Jung received 27 percent. Kim Jong Pil garnered only 8 percent. [For details on the election, see The Two Koreas by Don Oberdorfer.]
Though losing that round, Moon's beneficiaries did better in the years that followed. Kim Jong Pil again became prime minister, a post he held from 1998 to early 1999. Kim Dae Jung became president in 1998 and also won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Through the years, Kim Dae Jung did not advertise his ties to Moon. Kim's association with the theocrat who considers himself the new Messiah has remained discreet, with the two men generally avoiding contact in public.
One exception came on Feb. 1, 1999, when Moon and his wife - known to their followers as the "True Parents" - were holding a celebration at the Lotte Hotel in Seoul. To the surprise of Moon's followers, Kim Dae Jung arrived and enthusiastically joined the couple in their ceremony.
According to the Unification News, the church's internal newsletter, the Lotte Hotel event was "the first time President Kim appeared in public with our True Parents."
Though less secret, Moon's relationship with the Bush family also remains little known to most Americans. Moon's organization has paid the Bush family directly - for speeches in the 1990s - but the alliance appears to have grown primarily through Moon's extravagant financial support for The Washington Times, which has consistently backed the Bushes politically.
After its founding in 1982, The Washington Times staunchly supported some of the Reagan-Bush administration's most controversial policies, such as the contra war in Nicaragua.
When the contra operation was embarrassed by initial public disclosures of contra drug trafficking in 1985-86, The Washington Times led the counterattack, criticizing journalists and congressional investigators who uncovered the first evidence of the problem.
Those attacks helped cement a conventional wisdom in the Washington political community that the contra-drug allegations were bogus, a belief that persisted until 1998 when the CIA's inspector general admitted that dozens of contra units were implicated in cocaine trafficking and that the Reagan-Bush administration had hidden much of the evidence. [See Robert Parry's Lost History.]
The Washington Times also led the charge against Iran-contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The newspaper's rear-guard defense of its allies proved important when Walsh's investigation threatened to break through the long-running White House cover-up that was protecting Bush's assertion that he was "out of the loop" on the scandal. [For details on The Washington Times' role, see Walsh's book, Firewall.]
During national political campaigns, Moon's Washington Times was especially influential, mounting harsh - and often inaccurate - attacks on the Bush family's adversaries.
In 1988, when George H.W. Bush was running for president, The Washington Times publicized false rumors about the mental health of Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis, an important first step in raising doubts about the Massachusetts governor.
President George H.W. Bush grew so appreciative of The Washington Times that in 1991, he invited its editor-in-chief, Wesley Pruden, to the White House for a private lunch. Bush explained that the purpose of the lunch was "just to tell you how valuable the Times has become in Washington, where we read it everyday." [WT, May 17, 1992]
In Bush's 1992 reelection campaign, The Washington Times was helping again, spreading new false rumors that Bill Clinton might have betrayed his country during a college trip to Moscow, possibly being recruited by the KGB as a spy.
After George H.W. Bush lost in 1992, The Washington Times shifted from defense to offense. The newspaper became a leading conservative weapon in mounting attacks on the Clinton administration.
During the Bush family's years out of power, Moon put money directly into their pockets, too. Moon-affiliated organizations paid for speeches by former President Bush in the United States, Asia and South America. Sometimes, Barbara Bush joined her husband in these appearances. The price tag for the speeches has been estimated at from hundreds of thousands of dollars to $10 million, a figure cited to me by a senior Unification Church official in the mid-1990s.
The elder Bush has refused to divulge how much money he received from Moon-affiliated organizations. During one 1996 appearance in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the senior Bush went beyond a mere speech to act as a kind of international lobbyist for the Moon organization.
At the time, Moon was planning to launch a new newspaper, Tiempos del Mundo, and his supporters were upset over critical coverage in South American newspapers. The South American press was pointing out Moon's close association with right-wing "death-squad" governments of the 1970s and the so-called "Cocaine Coup" regime in Bolivia in the early 1980s.
Moon's defenders were forced to issue public denials that Moon's mysterious source of wealth came from drug trafficking and other organized-crime activities.
These allegations were threatening the Tiempos del Mundo launch, Moon's followers feared. But Moon had a special weapon to prove his respectability: the endorsement of the 41st president of the United States.
Bush arrived on Nov. 22, 1996, and stayed with Argentine President Carlos Menem at his official residence. The next day, Bush gave the keynote address at the newspaper's inaugural dinner.
"Mr. Bush's presence as keynote speaker gave the event invaluable prestige," wrote the Unification News. "Father [Moon] and Mother [Mrs. Moon] sat with several of the True Children [Moon's offspring] just a few feet from the podium."
Bush lavished praise on Moon and his journalistic enterprises. "I want to salute Reverend Moon," Bush said. "A lot of my friends in South America don't know about The Washington Times, but it is an independent voice. 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."
Bush's endorsement wasn't exactly accurate. A stream of editors and correspondents have left The Washington Times, complaining about the interference of Moon's operatives. But Moon's followers believed Bush's intervention stanched the flow of negative press stories and saved the day.
In those eight years of the Bush family's hiatus from power, Moon also grew increasingly anti-American, often telling his followers that the United States was "Satanic." He vowed to build a movement powerful enough to absorb America and eliminate what Moon saw as America's destructive tendencies toward individualism.
"Americans who continue to maintain their privacy and extreme individualism are foolish people," Moon told his followers during one speech on Aug. 4, 1996. He then said, "Once you have this great power of love, which is big enough to swallow entire America, there may be some individuals who complain inside your stomach. However, they will be digested."
During the 2000 campaign, The Washington Times was back helping the Bush family achieve its political restoration. Day after day, the newspaper published articles undercutting Democrat Al Gore - even questioning his sanity - while boosting the candidacy of George W. Bush.
In late 1999, The New York Times and The Washington Post created a controversy by misquoting Gore as claiming credit for starting the Love Canal toxic-waste cleanup. The two newspapers quoted Gore as saying "I was the one that started it all" when in fact he was referring to a similar Tennessee toxic-waste case and said, "that was the one that started it all."
Yet, with the bogus quote touching off a wave of media ridicule about Gore's supposed lack of credibility, The Washington Times eagerly joined the pack and returned to its old game of questioning the sanity of its political enemies. A Washington Times editorial termed Gore "delusional" and stated, "The real question is how to react to Mr. Gore's increasingly bizarre utterings."
The editorial went on to call Gore "a politician who not only manufactures gross, obvious lies about himself and his achievements but appears to actually believe these confabulations." [WT, Dec. 7, 1999]
Even after The New York Times and The Washington Post corrected their misquote, The Washington Times continued to use the bogus quote. On Dec. 31, 1999, Moon's newspaper published a column entitled "Liar, Liar; Gore's Pants on Fire." The column repeated the false quote and concluded that "when Al Gore lies, it's without any apparent reason."
The media drumbeat about Gore's supposed lies - often built on similar press exaggerations and outright errors - became a key element of the 2000 campaign. Many Republican strategists viewed the widespread perception of Gore as untrustworthy as crucial in holding down Gore's vote and clearing George W. Bush's route to the White House.
Now, with the Bush family back in charge, Moon's organization appears in line for some financial payback. George W. Bush's plan to funnel government money into religious charities is expected to be especially profitable for Moon's front groups that are organized as non-profit charities.
The Rev. Pat Robertson, the conservative televangelist, is among those who have raised the alarm about how Bush's "faith-based" initiative could line Moon's pockets.
On the "700 Club" television program, Robertson warned that Moon's Unification Church could become one of the financial "beneficiaries of the proposal to expand eligibility for government grants to religious charities." [Washington Post, Feb. 22, 2000]
Besides the possibility of collecting U.S. taxpayers' money, Moon also continues to benefit from a determined see-no-evil stance of the U.S. government toward Moon's political-religious-business organization.
Widespread evidence exists of money-laundering by Moon's operation - including first-hand statements by church insiders including his former daughter-in-law. But this evidence simply disappears into a black hole of federal indifference.
Moon's business dealings with communist North Korea, dating back to 1991 and the first Bush administration, also have prompted no official U.S. reaction. Based on what is known publicly, Moon would appear to be in violation of the long-standing U.S. trade embargo against North Korea. That embargo covered Moon because he is a legal U.S. resident - possessing a "green card" - and thus required to abide by U.S. sanction laws.
According to other DIA documentation that I obtained under FOIA, Moon delivered millions of dollars in secret payments to North Korea's top officials - including current communist leader Kim Il Song.
Those payments, in the early-to-mid 1990s, came at a time when the communist regime was desperate for hard currency to support its development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.
Ironically, it is that arms buildup that George W. Bush now cites as a chief reason for postponing further negotiations with North Korea - and for spending tens of billions of dollars to build a U.S. nuclear "Star Wars" shield.
During this past week's summit, South Korea's president Kim Dae Jung disagreed with Bush over the cessation of talks with North Korea. Bush attacked the North Koreans as untrustworthy.
Yet, behind the scenes -- though perhaps not fully apparent to either man -- was this odd connection linking the Bush family, Kim Dae Jung and the communist leaders of North Korea.
It was the secret bond of Rev. Sun Myung Moon's mysterious money. Robert Parry is an investigative reporter who broke many of the Iran-contra stories in the 1980s for The Associated Press and Newsweek.