A Scion Falls Short of Sinless

The Boston Globe/December 20, 1997
By Eileen McNamara

Nansook Hong smiled all the way to the dentist's office the other day. Even the prospect of a root canal looked good next to the marriage she had just dissolved in Concord probate court.

She went into Judge Edward Ginsburg's courtroom Nansook Hong Moon and came out Nansook Hong, freed from her ties to the Rev. Sun Myung Moon in name and in law.

None of the cameras that recorded the elaborately staged mass wedding of the Rev. Moon's followers in Washington, D.C., a few weeks ago were on hand to document the end of her 14-year marriage to Hyo Jin Moon, the eldest son of the self-proclaimed messiah.

One divorce for cruel and abusive treatment can hardly compete as television or as theater with the blessing of a football stadium full of passive brides in identical white gowns marching alongside awkward grooms in standard-issue black suits.

Still, the legal proceedings might have proven instructive for the Rev. Moon's freshly minted newlyweds. On Thursday, the Moons marched from family court to criminal court next door to petition for an end to Hyo Jin Moon's probationary status. The heir to the Unification has been on probation since he sent his now ex-wife a threatening note in violation of a court order that barred him from contacting her.

Hyo Jin Moon's lawyers cautioned District Judge Paul McGill not to confuse Moon's Massachusetts case with their client's legal troubles in New York. He remains on probation there for two drunken driving convictions.

It's not quite the image Sun Myung Moon would like his followers to have of the ideal True Family, as he and his wife refer to themselves and their 12 children.

In a bid for greater public acceptance, the Rev. Moon has launched several civic organizations in the last few years said to be devoted to world peace, women's rights, and conservative family values. With names like the Women's Federation for World Peace, these groups do not advertise their links to the Rev. Moon or the Unification Church.

In full-page newspaper advertisements that appeared before the mass wedding late last month, the Rev. Moon said he knows most Americans consider him a controversial figure. Given the 77-year-old Korean evangelist's claims to be the Lord of the Second Advent, his 1982 conviction on federal tax-evasion charges, and his 12month stint in a federal penitentiary, it could hardly be otherwise.

"We are not trying to promote me as an individual or expand the Unification Church as an institution," he wrote, by way of reassurance. "Our goal is to bring together all peoples and all religions in an effort to strengthen families."

The ad amused Nansook Hong, who fled the multimillion-dollar Moon family compound in Irvington, N.Y., in 1995 with her children to escape what she describes as a climate of fear, drug and alcohol abuse, and domestic violence. The family values she says she observed first-hand looked a lot more like the seven deadly sins: gluttony, lust, avarice, sloth, anger, envy, and pride.

Nansook Hong was a 15-vear-old Korean schoolgirl when the Rev. Moon chose her to he the bride of his then 19-year-old son. The Rev. Moon's own wife, Hak Ja Han Moon, was only 16 herself when she married the then-40-year-old preacher in 1960. Sun Myung Moon promptly declared himself and his wife "True Parents" who would establish the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth by bringing sinless children into the world and by uniting believers in arranged marriages.

Court papers detailing Nansook Hong's allegations of a marriage plagued by her husband's dug addiction and violence suggest that Hyo Jin Moon came up a little short of sinless.

Notwithstanding the unusual union being dissolved last Thursday, Judge Ginsburg dispensed his standard advice to divorcing couples: "You. can be ex-husband and ex-wife, but parents are forever."

Nansook Hong will retain sole legal and physical custody of their five children, three girls and two little boys who have not seen their father for almost two years because of his failure to meet the court's sole requirement for visitation: a clean drug test.

It is an odd obstacle for the scion of a sect that mandates that members abstain from the use of illegal drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes. By contrast, Hyo Jin Moon spent the 30 minutes prior to his divorce proceedings outside the Concord courthouse, chain-smoking a pack of Marlboros.

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