Dear Leader's Paper Moon

“[The Reverend Sun Myung] Moon's speeches foresee an apocalyptic confrontation involving the United States, Russia, China, Japan, and North and South Korea, in which the Moon Organization would play a key role. Under these circumstances, the subcommittee believes it is in the interest of the United States to know what control Moon and his followers have over instruments of war and to what extent they are in a position to influence Korean defense policies.”

-- U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee report, “Investigation of Korean-American Relations,” October 31, 1978

Several years ago, the communist dictator of North Korea decided to send a birthday gift to a special friend. The gift was a rare ginseng root, and the recipient, given the ideology of the sender, may seem at first blush to be a surprise: the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, self-proclaimed messiah and proud owner of Washington's flagship right-wing newspaper, The Washington Times.

Their relationship, in fact, is based on more than the exchange of baubles. Moon once claimed that Kim Jong-Il has extended an invitation to reside permanently in his totalitarian paradise. “He tells me,” Moon once recalled in a sermon about Kim, “‘I will give you a comfortable place if you come here, and the people will appreciate you more here.'”

One has a reputation as the world's most volatile ruler and is seen as a potential nuclear threat to the United States. The other is known as a media tycoon who rarely gets mentioned these days, existing chiefly in fading memories of young people marrying strangers during mass ceremonies at Madison Square Garden. Both are subjects of cultish veneration by their respective faithful.

Wherever Kim goes, storm clouds seem to shrink from gathering, according to the North Korean news service (which also lauds the “Dear Leader” as a better golfer than Tiger Woods, routinely shooting three or four holes-in-one per round), while Moon claims to be able to speak with the dead. Each man's followers fervently believe that he exists beyond the plane of normal human experience.

In the material world, however, the flourishing relationship between the Unification Church and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea raises difficult questions for the conservative Republicans who have built The Washington Times with Moon's billions -- and about the extent to which he, his aides, and his front organizations, including his daily newspaper, have collaborated with the North Korean dictatorship.

An American Prospect investigation reveals that The Washington Times offices, housed in an imposing building on a northeast Washington strip otherwise known for tire shops and fast-food joints, serve as the base of operations for Moon's diplomatic missions to his homeland. Moreover, the paper itself has served as an instrument of Moon's partnership with the communist regime. Throughout the 1990s, as Western observers predicted that the Kim dynasty that rules North Korea would collapse for lack of hard currency reserves, the Moon organization invested tens of millions of dollars, which apparently included payments made before U.S. sanctions eased in 1999.

The Japanese press has accused Moon of involvement in an arms deal that appears to have enhanced North Korean missile-tube research -- a serious charge, considering recent fears about the advancement of North Korea's missile-range capabilities. Indeed, Moon's connections with the Kim regime have long been a matter of active concern for the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).

Yet Moon remains a Washington political powerhouse in his own right, a generous friend of the Bush family, and a patron of religious-right and other conservative causes. Now 85 years old, he oversees a secretive international empire of media, religious, real-estate, commercial, and industrial entities, as well as a shifting maze of front groups with far more names than leaders. Notable among these organizations is the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace (IIFWP), which has an office in The Washington Times building -- and has been repeatedly publicized in the newspaper's pages.

The Washington Times has played an essential role in Moon's relations with the Kim dynasty, although the tone of its coverage alternates between promotional and hostile. Ironically, while Times editorial-page editor (and TV personality) Tony Blankley has published recent op-ed columns attacking the Clinton administration's “perverse policy of appeasement” for giving “enticements and sweetheart deals” to North Korea, a secretive organization housed just one floor above the very office where he writes his editorials serves as the headquarters for Moon's emissaries. However harshly The Washington Times may denounce North Korea, those emissaries and Moon himself have been providing attractive “enticements” and “deals” to Pyongyang for almost 15 years.

Indeed, Moon's relationship with the North Korean regime continues to expand today. He maintains a deluxe hotel in Pyongyang and is pursuing other ventures. Although he lost a long and costly bidding war with Hyundai to develop tourism in North Korea, the South Korea–based car company ceded to Moon's people the right to build an automobile factory in Nampo, a city outside the capital where he has invested $55 million so far. He has also mounted an advertising campaign that has placed the first commercial billboards on North Korean soil.

So the Moon empire is providing substantial assistance to what may well be the most dangerous and unstable regime in President Bush's “axis of evil” -- and a government that many on the right consider an irreconcilable enemy of the United States -- while simultaneously attacking elected officials (almost exclusively Democrats) who question the president's policies as weak and unpatriotic.

* * *

Moon's growing constellation of financial and political connections with North Korea -- an arrangement that would be impossible to imagine for any other newspaper publisher in America -- lend credence to critics who have long insisted that The Washington Times should register with the U.S. Justice Department as a political organ funded by foreign sources.

Yet if American conservatives are troubled, they have remained strangely silent, perhaps because they realize that they have only themselves to blame. None of this would have been possible had they not embraced their beaming occult benefactor decades ago. Having endorsed Moon, they enabled the creation of his newspaper. The Washington Times proved to be the essential vehicle for Moon's courtship of the North Korean dictatorship, which commenced in earnest in 1992 with a celebration of the dictator's birthday.

That strange story begins with the arrival of Times Editor-in-Chief Wesley Pruden and a team of journalists in Pyongyang in April 1992, where they set to work on a special edition of the newspaper emphasizing the warmth and friendliness of communist North Korea, back in the days of “Great Leader” Kim Il-Sung.

Before exploring the reasons why Pruden went to Pyongyang, however, it is useful to review how Moon was welcomed into the bosom of Washington conservatism. For while the casual observer might regard Moon's post-1991 alliance with North Korea as a sharp reversal for the old Cold Warrior, upon closer scrutiny, his professed goals have never really changed. He has consistently tried to enter the political vacuums in unstable communist countries, calling for them to be filled with a new form of post-democratic government that he calls “Godism.”

After South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond helped Moon enter the United States in 1971, conservatives welcomed the reverend as an ally with ties to the World Anti-Communist League, a far-right international group with connections to Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, South Korea, and the CIA. His sermons called communism “satanic.” His official biography told of how Moon, a cleric tortured in one of Kim Il-Sung's prison camps, had been rescued at the brink of death by the American-led invasion at Inchon. He would be forever in America's debt.

Such public pronouncements charmed his conservative American sponsors. But to his disciples, Moon preached that America's constitutional system of government should and will collapse. “[W]e must have an automatic theocracy to rule the world,” he explained in a 1973 tract titled Master Speaks. “So we cannot separate the political field from the religious.”

Moon's Republican friends, however, seemed unwilling to look beyond the master's slavish displays of patriotism, including “God Loves Richard Nixon” demonstrations on the Capitol steps during the Watergate hearings and a “Bicentennial God Bless America” stadium rally, in which his disciples marched in Revolutionary War costumes. The leadership conferences sponsored by his CAUSA organization sought to unite Latin American fascists -- including the junta that came to power in Bolivia's 1980 “cocaine coup” -- behind a single platform, calling for a new, faith-driven form of government as a sword against communism.

He was scarcely slowed by his 1982 federal conviction on charges of tax fraud and conspiracy to obstruct justice, which led to his imprisonment for 13 months. His loyal allies, including Moral Majority founder Tim LaHaye, who later co-authored the Left Behind series, decried his prison sentence as religious and racial persecution.

By the late '80s, Moon's front groups and activists were too deeply intertwined with The Heritage Foundation and Washington's other leading right-wing groups to be dislodged. Having cemented relations with the likes of Jerry Falwell, funded promotion of the “Star Wars” Strategic Defense Initiative program, and footed part of the bill for the Contra death squads, he had also carved out a new niche as the VIP behind the Reagan and Bush administrations' favorite daily newspaper -- an identity that has long outlasted memories of his criminal rap.

To Moon, his daily newspaper serves as a crucial instrument of propaganda and intelligence. “With The Washington Times at the core, we are establishing preeminence in the American print media,” he once said. “By doing so, we can include all fields of intelligence. Today we [are] continually gaining important confidential information, not only from America but also from other governments all over the world.”

* * *

With the 1991 collapse of Soviet communism, Moon saw an opportunity in the ensuing financial crisis in Pyongyang. Exploiting the situation would be two of Moon's most trusted servants: Antonio Betancourt, a Colombian-born disciple who had headed the CAUSA project in Latin America during the '80s, and Colonel Bo Hi Pak, Moon's longtime No. 2 aide, who had remained fiercely loyal even after a ritual late-'80s beating sent him to Georgetown University Hospital with brain damage.

Moon's decision to approach Pyongyang long preceded Seoul's “sunshine policy” of opening to the North. Making contact with North Korea was no small enterprise. In church publications, Betancourt has told how he first tried the North Korean Embassy in Beijing, presenting himself as the head of a new Moon project, the Summit Council for World Peace, only to be rebuffed again and again. He claims that he finally met with the North Koreans in April 1991, and would meet with them 16 more times between then and 2003, winning personal audiences with both the late Kim Il-Sung and his son. (Betancourt, who is on The Washington Times employee phone directory, along with his Summit Council and relatives who work for the Times company, did not return repeated calls.)

The key figure who smoothed Moon's own entry, however, was an enigmatic Seoul businesswoman who later became his partner in a joint venture with the North. According to former Washington Times Seoul correspondent Michael Breen, also a Moon follower at the time, it was he who introduced church leaders to the woman who made it all possible.

“Madame” Park Kyung Youhne was nicknamed “the gateway” in Seoul for her singular ability to arrange meetings with officials in the North, and courted by Hyundai and other South Korean conglomerates for her extraordinary access. She was involved in food aid to the North in 1995. A 1996 Wall Street Journal profile reported persistent rumors that her ventures across the border -- which by then included Moon's Kumgangsan development company -- were a front for espionage.

Moon accepted an invitation to come north in November 1991, just weeks before the red flag was hauled down at the Kremlin. In Colonel Pak's book Truth Is My Sword, Volume II (Volume I was graced by an introduction from former Reagan Secretary of State Al Haig), the longtime Moon aide says the reverend went further than merely suggesting a post–Cold War entente. “In a unified Korea,” Pak quotes him proclaiming, “I will become supreme chairman of the unified Korean Peninsula. Kim Il-Sung will be the vice chairman, and the central ideology will be Godism … .”

Intrigued by this bold declaration, says Peter Kim, Reverend Moon's personal secretary, the elder Kim had Moon's party flown to his guest house in Hungnam, where the big man bear-hugged the evangelist and said: “Let us forget the past. Most important is now and the future.” Other church accounts of the trip say that the two men discussed Korean reunification.

Declassified reports from the DIA go still further, with Moon paying “several tens of millions of dollars” into an overseas account as down payment for a business venture, while promising to encourage overseas investment. One Japanese press account said Moon pledged $350 million to the regime.

* * *

Those secret negotiations weren't disclosed in The Washington Times on April 15, 1992, when the 11-day visit to North Korea by a delegation of newsroom staff culminated in a special issue marking Kim Il-Sung's 80th birthday. During the trip, Editor-in-Chief Pruden's dispatches played up his shtick of a right-wing fish out of water. “The Koreans have a bent for this kind of mindless argument,” he wrote in a column about the dogmatic answers given him by his hosts in Pyongyang. “There must be something in the kimchi.”

Pruden, a hard-line conservative who grew up in Arkansas as the son of a leading segregationist, declined to be interviewed about his newspaper or its coverage of North Korea. He issued a written statement to the Prospect: “I have the editorial independence that Bill Keller of The New York Times or Len Downie of The Washington Post can barely imagine.”

But Pruden didn't handle the paper's two and a half hour interview with Kim Il-Sung, the aging tyrant's first with a Western media outlet in 20 years. That delicate and demanding task fell to managing editor Josette Shiner, the highest-ranking Moon disciple in the paper's newsroom at the time. Shiner's article highlighted the communist dictator's “robust appearance” (he died two years later), as well as his positive attitudes.

“Even if the sky is falling down on us, there will always be a hole for me to rise up through,” said Kim -- a sentence Shiner later recalled as “this wonderful thing which I printed in the paper.”

Shiner was an early daughter in Moon's True Family, where she remained for 20 years until 1996, when Moon encouraged his followers to enter outside churches. She became an Episcopalian, eventually went to work for William Bennett's Empower America think tank, and was appointed by President George W. Bush to a position in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative in 2001. (She was passed over to succeed Robert Zoellick as U.S. trade representative, but in March, The Washington Post reported rumors that she was soon to be named undersecretary of state for economic affairs.)

Shiner's interview with Kim Il-Sung was the page-1 centerpiece of the April 15, 1992, issue of The Washington Times, which came out in the U.S. capital just as a national holiday erupted in Pyongyang, heralding more than a week of birthday festivities. The admiring article depicted Kim as a “self-confident, reflective elder statesman rather than the reclusive, dogmatic dictator he is usually portrayed as in the West.” A lengthy question-and-answer session accompanied her profile.

“So do you have more time now for fishing and other things you enjoy?” Shiner inquired. Kim replied: “Of course! I have some time to go fishing and I have some time to go hunting. I love hunting and I love fishing also.” A startling swath of that issue's newsprint was devoted to North Korean agitprop boilerplate, such as this: “We have always paid primary attention to strengthening the driving force and increasing its role in socialist construction and conducted the transformations of nature and society to meet the requirements of Juche [Kim's mystical/Stalinist philosophy].”

Other stories aired the equally verbose remarks of Communist Party officials, who told the Times that they had lost interest in invading the South, were rethinking their country's isolation, and, most important of all, welcomed foreign investors.

Fast-forward to 2003, when the Seoul-based Joon Ang Daily would wonder how Moon's Pyeonghwa Motor Corporation had won a $55 million exclusive deal to manufacture vehicles for the regime. The Seoul paper quoted Hwang Sun-Jo, a Unification Church leader and head of Moon's Tongil industrial conglomerate, who revealed that their good fortune became possible after Moon “sent a Washington Times reporter to the North and made the country known to the West with a better image … . Since then the North has confided in the church.”

Michael Breen, who has since drifted away from the church and is now a Seoul-based consultant and author of Kim Jong-Il: North Korea's Dear Leader, says the publication of the newspaper's birthday package mattered more than its content. “As for softening Kim's image, I think that's bollocks,” he adds. “Moon wanted to show he had white folk calling him ‘sir,' and that he influenced Washington.” The newspaper coverage proved to Kim that Moon was more than just a business mogul, said Breen.

Later that year, however, Moon himself claimed that he had “softened” Kim's attitude toward America. “After I met with Kim Il-Sung, I sent to him a carefully thought-out plan,” he said. “Even to this day, I have received no answer from him. That means he is thinking, ‘What is Reverend Moon's idea?' Through The Washington Times and the other media which we have at our disposal, I introduced this whole concept, even bringing to America an interview with Kim Il-Sung.” (Moon also called the just-defeated George Bush Senior and his administration “dog-like” for refusing to support his plan for assuming command of Korea.)

In 1994, The Washington Times sent Shiner to Pyongyang for another celebration of Kim Il-Sung's birthday, although on that occasion her access was no longer exclusive. She managed to ask a question about human rights, and the Times printed Kim's casual dismissal. But the dominant note of her stories was the regime's plea for understanding. In her coverage she stops to admire “wiggly little children” performing a well-regimented hula-hoop dance. Not surprisingly, Shiner's April 15, 1994, piece, headlined “North Korea lets its hair down for a birthday party,” followed a piece with the headline, “North Korea pleads for the West's understanding.”

Five months later, on September 9, 1994, an unnamed DIA field analyst discussed the possibility that The Washington Times was serving the purposes of the North Korean government:

USING THE UNIFICATION CHURCH'S PERCEIVED INFLUENCE IN SUCH NEWSPAPERS AS THE SEIL [sic] DAILY NEWS AND THE WASHINGTON TIMES, ALONG WITH CHUCH AFFILIATED LOBBYISTS AND OTHER PERSONNEL LINKAGE, KN [North Korea] WILL TRY TO DELIVER ITS OPINIONS TO THE GOVERNMENTS OF THE WEST. THE INTENTION IS TO CREATE A FAVORABLE PUBLIC OPINION OF KN … .

DIA cables also noted certain explosive accusations that had made a big noise in the Japanese press. The respected Tokyo newspaper Weekly Asahi had reported that four men who had married into Moon's True Family were possibly operating on the evangelist's behalf when, in 1994, they emerged as the agents behind the controversial sale of decrepit Russian submarines to the North -- supposedly as scrap metal.

It is possible that that there was no real Moon link, as the principals of Toen Trading, a tiny Tokyo health-food company with big connections, immediately insisted. The company president told the Asahi reporter that he'd lost interest in the Unification Church. It may have been mere coincidence that one of the Toen Trading directors, according to Japanese journalist Arita Yoshifu, was an accounting director for the church's “spiritual sales” campaign, which had made Moon persona non grata in Japan. (In the scam, Moon's disciples coerced Japanese widows into paying astronomical sums to “free” their late husbands from hell.) “One cannot help but think that is an enterprise of the Unification Church,” an attorney from the National Network of Lawyers Against the Spiritual Sales told the Asahi, referring to Toen Trading.

Responding to a recent request for comment, the Unification Church issued a statement on the submarine affair: “Reverend Moon, a survivor of communist concentration camps and a refugee from North Korean Communism, spent decades engaged in a global effort to defeat communism ideologically, and founded the strongly anti-communist Washington Times at the height of the Cold War. He would never, in any way, pass military technology to a communist state.” Moreover, the statement said that Toen Trading “is not now, nor has it ever been, a part of the Unification Movement,” but went on to boast that Moon has “proudly and purposefully” invested in North Korea.

A fog of conflicting reports surrounded the junk trade. An early report in a South Korean paper claimed a suspiciously high-ranking North Korean naval officer was involved. Then The New York Times described a small fleet of submersibles hauled off to the North as-is; nonproliferation experts noted the words of the company president, who told the paper, “Everything is left as it is -- nothing is removed.” The intrigue heightened in May as North Korea repeatedly refused to allow Russian weapons inspectors to monitor the supposedly disarmed submarines.

But today, leading Western experts on North Korea's military -- including Jane's Defence Weekly writer Joseph Bermudez Jr., and John Pike of GlobalSecurity.org -- credit the scrap sub sale, whoever its brokers were, with showing Pyongyang how to improve stabilization of its missile tubes. A DIA memo on the subject noted, “ALTHOUGH THIS TRANSACTION GARNERED A GREAT DEAL OF COVERAGE IN THE JAPANESE PRESS, IT WAS NOT DISCLOSED AT THE TIME THAT TOEN [TRADING] IS AN AFFILIATE OF THE UNIFICATION CHURCH.” Reached for comment on the veracity of the cables, a Department of Defense spokesman said they were real analyses but not final ones, and would not elaborate further.

* * *

How has all this affected North Korea coverage in Moon's newspaper? These days, The Washington Times promotes a hard editorial line on the “gulag state.” The editorials are skeptical about negotiating with Kim Jong-Il. For a staunchly Republican media outlet, any other stance would be surprising (although the paper departs from its usual right-wing orthodoxy to run op-ed articles urging flexibility toward the North). But it is strange to read editorials denouncing China for providing food aid to North Korea, while the paper allows Moon front groups connected with Pyongyang to operate from its own building.

Consider the matter of Moon's Pyongyang hotel. His Japanese business interests appear to have financed the property, refurbished in early 1994 by a group linked to the scandalous “spiritual sales.” Dr. Norbert Vollertsen, a German activist who spent 18 months in North Korea, told the Prospect that he saw the hotel in 1999. Vollertsen believes that church investments have limited the paper's coverage of abuses by the Kim regime.

“Several times during my trips to Washington, I tried to get The Washington Times to print my photos about starving children in blue-and-white striped pajamas, looking like Auschwitz … always without any success,” he says. “Looking back, I only wondered about the suspicious Moonies in the nice Potongang Hotel in Pyongyang with CNN-TV and beautiful shops and their connections in Washington.” (The paper has, however, published stories about torture and summary executions from North Korean defectors.)

Most of the compromising relationships revolve around Moon's organizations in the Times building. His Summit Council, which maintains an office in Suite 360, claims to have made significant contributions in food aid as well as diplomacy during the past decade “with key American leaders, and opinion- and policy-makers.”

In the church tract Truth Is My Sword, Volume II, Betancourt even says that the council made possible the 1994 Agreed Framework treaty that now catches so much flak in The Washington Times. Furthermore, Moon insists that the church's emissaries laid the vital groundwork for the North-South summit of 2000. Japanese journalist Yoshifu Arita, an expert on groups considered cults in his home country, asserts that Moon held out business promises to lure North Korea to the table.

Has the U.S. government used the Summit Council as a diplomatic back channel? As North Korea expert Bradley Martin told the Prospect: “I have no doubt that there are people in the administration who would like to work with Moon. I just imagine most of the State [Department] career people are too professional to number among them.” But Republican Representative Curt Weldon, a conservative member of the House Armed Services Committee, has led delegations to Pyongyang and has appeared in recent years at Moon's IIFWP events in Seoul and New York.

One expert who vouches for the Summit Council's claims to importance is William Taylor of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, who met up with the group on a trip in 1994. “On a number of things,” Taylor acknowledges, “they are off on idealist tangents that this realist in international security affairs wouldn't travel.”

Despite these protestations, Taylor's byline has appeared on a recent opinion piece in The Washington Times criticizing the Bush administration's hard line and calling for direct negotiations with North Korea. (Another CSIS–based expert who has worked with the Summit Council, Colonel Paul Chamberlin, did not return Prospect phone calls.)

The council is also registered as a corporation called the World Institute for Peace and Development. (Its address has also doubled, according to the Internet site of a Moon company called Health, Beauty and Longevity, as an outlet for herbal concoctions including “Anxietamin.”) According to public documents, the council's officials include William Selig, the founder of CAUSA, and Reiner Vincenz, a German disciple, as well as Betancourt. Vincenz is quoted in a 2004 church publication as telling disciples: “After I came out of [visited] North Korea, Father gave me a big financial mission … . If I would tell you my mission, I don't think you could sleep tonight ... . There are only three people in the world with this mission. I am one of the three.”

Betancourt heads both the Summit Council and IIFWP North America, another Moon front with offices at the Times building. The IIFWP wants to transform the United Nations into a religious body. While most major newspapers haven't paid serious attention to the proposals, there is one exception: The Washington Times, on its Web site.

Boasting more readers, at 2.4 million, than the 100,000-circulation print edition, it has run numerous articles treating the group seriously, posting “breaking news” stories from Moon's other American news service, United Press International. A typical headline: “Use religion to advance peace, IIFWP says.” And in print, the September 23, 2002, Washington Times highlighted the IIFWP, describing it as a “group of religious leaders” who are “exploring the possibility of adding a new council to the United Nations, one that would add a spiritual dimension to the economic, political, and social prisms of U.N. problem solving” [sic]. The article mentioned Moon, but didn't disclose his ties or those of the IIFWP to the newspaper.

* * *

All of the many and varied front groups established by Moon share a common strategy: to lure politicians to lavish events showcasing the reverend as a global leader, thus generating the prestige that helps him open doors in Washington, Pyongyang, Beijing, and beyond. None of his investments has been as rewarding as the millions per month he's spent on The Washington Times, which will never return a nickel. The dividends that matter come with access to the powerful, many of them Republican politicians grateful for the paper's nearly unfiltered delivery of the party message.

Typical of the blurring between church and newspaper is the Washington Times Foundation, whose letterhead was used last year to persuade Virginia Senator John Warner to book a Senate office building for what turned out to be an embarrassing ritual honoring Moon as the messiah. And in Moon's speeches to his followers, the Times comes across even more starkly as a tool for the church's advancement, “at our disposal.”

Not long after he launched the newspaper, Moon boasted: “Many comfortable Washington political bureaucrats who have had their beautiful offices inside big marble buildings considered Reverend Moon and the Unification Church as insignificant as peanuts. However, now they have found themselves having to respond to The Washington Times; they are reading it and trembling at some of the stories.”

Despite its modest circulation, the paper continues to propel important stories into conservatism's national echo chamber. The gratitude that has accrued on the right could be heard in a special message delivered by Ronald Reagan at a Washington Times anniversary dinner celebration in 1997. “The American people know the truth,” declared the former president. “You, my friends at The Washington Times, have told it to them. It wasn't always the popular thing to do. But you were a loud and powerful voice. Like me, you arrived in Washington at the beginning of the most momentous decade of the century. Together, we rolled up our sleeves and got to work.

“And -- oh, yes -- we won the Cold War.”

With the Cold War long over, Moon's purposes are no longer necessarily compatible with the aims of American conservatives or the United States government. If his newspaper promotes a hard line toward North Korea, the would-be messiah and his commercialized church have pursued a very different policy -- and they have done so from within the newspaper itself. Given Moon's propensity for what many ex-disciples have called “heavenly deception,” the doctrine that God must fight Satan's deception with righteous lies, the paper's editorial policy may merely serve as a diversion from his self-serving ties with North Korea.

For now at least, the editorial line against North Korea is much firmer than it was toward China after Moon began to invest there years ago. Back then, Editor-in-Chief Arnaud de Borchgrave “issued an edict that we were no longer to attack” China, as editorialist Mike Bonafield told The Washington Post. In 1987, Bonafield and op-ed editor Bill Cheshire resigned, claiming that the church was forcing them to soften an op-ed on Seoul.

James Whelan, the first editor and only independent publisher of The Washington Times, quit years earlier, complaining of interference by the owners. Whelan regards the current state of affairs at the paper as disgraceful. “Quite obviously,” he told the Prospect, “neither the Summit Council nor any other Moonie front operation has any business setting up shop in an isolated building theoretically -- unlike, say, a downtown office building -- dedicated exclusively to a newspaper. It is a measure of how little sense of propriety or shame remains to those directing the affairs of that newspaper.”

Meanwhile, the birthday gifts continue to be exchanged. Michael Jenkins, the Unification Church reverend who hosted the messiah ceremony in the Senate office building last year, reported in a sermon that another gift had just arrived. Kim Jong-Il may be “a person that many people are trying to destroy,” said Jenkins, but “somehow there's a link, there's a lifeline, between the North and Father.”

John Gorenfeld is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Salon, Wired, the Guardian, and other publications.

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