Moon Sun-myung, the deceased founder of the Unification Church, had developed ties with North Korea over the past two decades through a raft of industrial and aid projects.
Born in Jeongju, North Pyeongan Province, Moon made a foray into the reclusive country after a 1991 meeting with Kim Il-sung, its late founding father.
While Moon also urged the resumption of inter-Korean talks and reunions of separated families during the meeting, Kim reportedly asked him to arrange a meeting with George H.W. Bush, the U.S. president at the time.
The landmark talks led to various programs. The church set up a firm in 1994 to carry out tours to Mount Geumgang and created a 300,000-square-meter peace park in his hometown a few years later. It also launched a council for consistent humanitarian assistance to Pyongyang in 2000 and has invested in a light industry complex in the southeastern port city of Wonsan and the Raseon special economic zone.
Moon Sun-myung (left) meets North Korean founder Kim Il-sung in Pyongyang in December 1991. (Yonhap News)
Among the most successful projects there is Pyeonghwa Motors General Corp., the communist state’s sole auto manufacturer founded in 1998. It is a 70-30 joint venture between the church’s Seoul-based Pyeonghwa Group and a state-run enterprise in North Korea.
Despite frozen cross-border relations, the church has provided food aid and the reverend had maintained contact with North Korean leaders ever since by sending gifts for their birthdays or other occasions.
When the longtime autocrat died in 1994, Moon sent a condolence delegation. After the death of Kim’s son, Jong-il, Moon sent flowers via his son and religious successor, Hyung-jin, who visited Pyongyang to pay his respects at the funeral.
By Shin Hyon-hee (firstname.lastname@example.org