Group linked to Moonies sponsoring Bush speeches

The Arizona Republic/September 4, 1995

The New York Times

TOKYO - Former President Bush is planning to spend nearly a week in Japan this month speaking at meetings sponsored by an organization connected with the Unification Church of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

The organization, the Women's Federation for World Peace, was founded and is headed by Hak Ja Han Moon, the wife of the church leader.

At the Global Family Festival on Sept. 14 in the Tokyo Dome baseball stadium, Bush and his wife, Barbara, are scheduled to share the speaker's podium with Hak Ja Han Moon.

The appearance is being seen by some in Japan as lending legitimacy to the South Korea-based religious group, which has been accused of dubious recruiting and fund-raising tactics.

"The Women's Federation for World Peace is a widely known front organization of the Unification Church," Hiroshi yamaguchi, a Tokyo lawyer who fights the church's practices, said in a letter sent to the former president a few days ago. Yamaguchi said the federation often uses celebrities to lure people to the events, where church members try to strike up relationships aimed at soliciting donations.

Masako Ochiai, a worker at the federation's Japanese office, said the person designated to answer questions about Bush's visit was in China at the U.N. World Conference on Women. She said the federation engages in charitable work and is distinct from the church. A telephone number listed for the federation in Washington was disconnected.

James McGrath, a spokesman for bush in Houston, said he did not know how much the former President would be paid for his trip to Japan. The primary purpose of the visit is to appear at federation events in Tokyo and other Japanese cities, McGrath said.

Bush, who also is going to Vietnam and China this month, reportedly will receive a six-figure fee from Citibank for speeches he will give in Vietnam. Former President Reagan received about $2 million from a Japanese media conglomerate for an eight-day visit to Japan in 1989.

Bush's visit, which has received almost no publicity in Tokyo, comes at a time when Japan is edgy about unorthodox religious groups because of the poison-gas attack carried out by the Aum Shinrikyo sect in the Tokyo subway system in March.

McGrath said the Bushes know that the federation is headed by Moon's wife but are convinced that it is distinct from the church.

"We were comfortable with the fact that it was not a Unification Church-sponsored event," McGrath said. "They are not promoting any kind of cult agenda."

He said that the Bushes had spoken at a federation conference in Washington this spring at which the religion never was mentioned, and that other prominent speakers included Coretta Scott King and Barbara Walters.

"The sense the Bushes have is that these are about family and about building bridges of friendship between the Japanese and American people, which is something they wholeheartedly endorse," McGrath said.

These topics are what the former first couple will speak about in Japan, he said.

But at a similar "Global Family" festival run by the federation in Tokyo Dome two years ago, the main part of the proceedings was a two-hour speech by HakJa Han Moon extolling her husband, said Hiromi Hoshino, who attended the gathering.

Moon was convicted of income-tax evasion in 1982 and spent nearly a year in federal prison.

The program for the festival in September 1993 listed the Unification Church as a supporting organization. A guest speaker was Marilyn Quayle, the wife of Bush's vice president, Dan Quayle.

A poster advertising the Tokyo Dome festival does not mention the Unification Church. It states that the conference, with the theme, "Love will save the Earth," is about protecting children. Ticket prices range from about $80 to about $150.

Yamaguchi, the lawyer, said he represents a network of about 300 other lawyers who have offered services to more who have offered services to more than 16, 575 people in Japan who have been victimized by what are called "spiritual sales." In this practice, church members pressure someone into buying certain objects or making large donations on the grounds that it will help their family's karma or allow a deceased relative to rest in peace.

Although Hak Ja Han Moon is Korean, the 3-year-old women's federation appears to be mainly a Japanese organization, which says it has branches around the world.

In April 1994, the federation sponsored a meeting at Purchase College in Purchase, N.Y., that was advertised as "promoting peace and reconciliation" among different peoples. The program turned out to be one praising the Unification Church.

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