The Words of the Oak Family
In 1946, when the Unification Church didn't even have a plaque to its name, when Reverend Moon walked alone on the path of God's Will, he met an old grandmother by the name of Sae Hyun Oak, a living proof and testimony to the strength of Reverend Moon and his church. She goes by "Mother Oak" in that she was a sort of "mother" to the church in its struggling early days. During his prison years and persecution, she chose to walk alongside him on the thorny path. She is 80 years old, yet in her white Korean costume she looks fresh and even youngish. Her serious face bespeaks the historical mission once thrust upon her frail shoulders.
Mrs. Oak was born in Pyongyang, North Korea. A deacon in her Christian church, she and her husband, elder in the same church, had two sons and four daughters. This interview, with her cooperation, explores the early struggling days of the Unification Church.
Q. First of all, please tell me how you met Reverend Moon.
A. When my eldest son was 22, he went to Japan for a college education. World War II had broken out at that time and he had to join the army. I prayed to God to take care of my son. Now, just around Liberation Day in 1945, many messages from the spirit world reached some of us. I happened to receive revelation, so to speak, as to where Reverend Moon lived. First, I was told to go up a mountain for prayer. But I was too busy with my domestic chores so I postponed this prayer, and consequently I was punished by a disease. Then, in November, 1946, someone took me to meet with Reverend Moon for the first time.
Q. What happened after you met him?
A. I was the wife of an elder in an established Christian church and a deacon myself in the same church. But a few of us deacons gathered around Rev. Moon for worship and prayer. The whole thing was unbelievable. At our meetings we were really high, spiritually; that is, we cried, prayed, cried in joy again. Once we understood God's heart, we truly repented. Soon the established churches got wind of our meetings, and started persecuting us. Police stations were alerted and some of us were apprehended. We experienced the same Holy Spirit that had descended in the upper room of Mark two thousand years earlier. My own family, too, objected and others soon persecuted me.
Q. I understand that Rev. Moon was arrested at that time on the grounds that his meetings were those of the Bok Joong Gyo (Inside-Belly Church).
A. That's right. There was the Bok Joong Gyo, of which Mrs. Ho Bin Hur [Ho Ho Bin] was the founder. She and her followers had their special clothes made for the coming of the Lord of the Second Advent. When the police heard of this, they came to arrest her and took away all the clothes. Rev. Moon's church was also considered the same sort of religious group, for which he was imprisoned for three months. He sent a note through a third party to Mrs. Hur, advising her to repudiate her Bok Joong Gyo and get out of jail, but the note was intercepted. As a result, he was cruelly tortured by his jailers, bleeding a great deal and losing several of his teeth. At first he stayed with Mr. Na, but after his release he moved to Mr. Chong Hwa Kim's.
Q. Rev. Moon, who tried to fulfill his heavenly mission in laying down the foundation for the history of God's dispensation, faced stone walls of opposition, it seems. After the prison, what really happened?
A. Rev. Moon told us to fast. After three days of fasting, I received revelation from Heaven what sort of person Rev. Moon was. He was 27 at the time . After five days I returned home, and then my family really started objecting to my association. I was a wife of an elder in an established church and a deacon, yet I was away from home, fasting somewhere, for five days. My own family's opposition was all natural.
Q. How did established churches regard all this?
A. They all raised up their arms in protest. They were like a swarm of angry bees. In 1947 our group had about 30 members, most of whom were regular members of established churches. They were all persecuted; they were made to suffer hardships by In Joo Kim's family. I could not stand the cruelty involved in this persecution and hostility. One day I had a dream in which I saw Rev. Moon tortured on the cross and when I rushed to him I saw that he was weakened by severe beatings. This was all in my dream. About this time he lived with his aunt and I saw him often.
Q. I understand that soon afterwards he was again imprisoned and tortured. Why?
A. In 1948, Mrs. Sung Do Jee came to our Church to make preparation for a Heavenly feast on March 1 (lunar calendar). The rumor spread fast and the established churches as well as the police got wind of it. One day a woman came and told us that she was a believer and so were her parents. Later it turned out that she had come to spy on us. The next day I felt confused and oppressed, so I went to Church. There had already come a detective from the police, who arrested Rev. Moon and Won Pil Kim, and two other female family members. Mr. Won Pil Kim was released after four days, and the two sisters after two days. We did not have our feast as scheduled, of course. And five or six of us were apprehended and imprisoned. When I stayed in a cell for two days, Rev. Moon was released. Five days after his incarceration, he was charged with (1) being Syngman Rhee's spy, (2) squeezing money out of rich women, and (3) disorderly conduct. Anyone charged with espionage was sure to be executed by the firing squad without a trial.
I was utterly confused and frustrated. All of a sudden, the spirit seized hold of me and I was literally rolling on the floor within the indoctrination center. Instructors at the center got scared and ran like jack rabbits. When it was all over, they came back and asked me why I was in such a frenzied state. They insinuatingly asked me one question after another when I became a follower of Rev. Moon, etc. I was then confined in a cell, and one of my nephews came to negotiate my release. All totaled, I was in jail for nine days.
Q. How did the trial go?
A. I felt a gross injustice was being done to us, so I availed myself of a lawyer as defense counsel. The whole thing was blown up in the papers, so that many established church members came to the court. They jeered at us and asked: What did Jesus have on his head? They screamed that Rev. Moon ought to be butchered. The judge sentenced Rev. Moon to imprisonment of five years.
I accompanied Rev. Moon to the middle of the courtyard and offered him the food I had brought with me. When I walked behind him, seeing him handcuffed like a common criminal, my heart was torn to shreds. I appealed to the higher court but his sentence was not reduced. He was soon transferred from the police head quarters to Pyongyang prison. At that time, over thirty family members drifted away, and I was the only one to visit him in the jail.
Q. Tell us a little about this Pyongyang prison.
A. Three days before Rev. Moon was to be incarcerated, a young prisoner in the Pyongyang prison by the name of Won Duck Kim had received in his dream a revelation that he should serve and honor Rev. Moon. He did, I understand, as he had been told. He listened to Rev. Moon and served him in so many little ways.
Q. Did you see him often when he was later transferred to Hungnam prison?
A. Well, for some time I received no news, but one day a letter arrived from Hungnam. The letter said I should come to see him there. At once I made preparations for the journey and set out, taking a late train. I rode all night. From Pyongyang it's about 1,000 ri (400 km.). I was just a housewife, not used to going out, so to go on a long journey through the night was not easy for me. But I knew that Rev. Moon was suffering all kinds of hardship, so I summoned up all my courage to undertake this journey, and I finally arrived at Hungnam the following morning. I took a room in a nearby hotel, unpacked my belongings, and went to visit him. Prisoners were coming out of the cells, 40 in a group, all chained. I spotted Rev. Moon among them. My heart almost stopped. I waited all day for him until he returned from hard labor all day. I was glad when I saw him, but my heart was bleeding too.
Q. What did you talk about?
A. He asked how the family members were. I wanted to make him feel good, so I said they were doing fine. I gave him rice powder. The next day I saw him once again and took the night train back to Pyongyang. I cried all the way, tears cascading down my cheeks, which blurred my own vision. I couldn't help it.
Q. And then?
A. After some time I went back to see him but was told he was no longer at that prison. This worried me to no end, so I asked one of the jailers and he told me that Rev. Moon was at a place called Bon Gung. The place was about eight km. away from Hungnam prison. I hired someone to carry my baggage and went there and took a room in a small lodging house. My eyes were in the meantime riveted on the prison and I heard the squeaking noise of a rickshaw. And then, lo, Rev. Moon was pulling it! I rushed to him and talked with him. I bought some apples, glutinous rice and eggs, and whipped up a meal for him. Then I came back to my lodging, worried sick. I tried to sleep to no avail, and the next morning I looked in the direction of the prison and saw Rev. Moon sweeping the prison yard. I went to him and asked if he had received the meal. He said he had enjoyed it. He had to leave me, so I returned to my place. When I looked back he was sweeping the backyard.
I went to one of the guards and told him I had come all the way from Pyongyang to speak with my nephew. He gave me permission to do so. We talked a long time. Rev. Moon told me he was going back to Hungnam in a month. I waited for him to come out again but he never did, so I had no choice but to return to Pyongyang.
Q. I understand Rev. Moon suffered a great deal of hardship. Did he ever talk to you about it?
A. On one occasion both Won Pil Kim and I went to visit him. He was carrying a heavy fertilizer bag; his head was wrapped in a dirty towel, with an old hat on. He turned back to look at us as if he could never forget us. He then sadly went back to the jail. Each time I went there I bought new clothes for him, but each time I returned I saw only the old clothes on him. I later learned that he had given the new clothes to prisoners released to go home.
Q. During the Korean War, as the ROK Army was marching north, the gates of Hungnam prison were opened. Did he ever talk to you about that?
A. During the war, I could not go there to see him. I ached to see him again, but I just prayed and prayed. And I received revelation reassuring me that he was in good shape. On October 14, 1950, the United Nations forces captured Hungnam and liberated the prisoners, among whom was Rev. Moon. Bombing from the U.N. Air Force was heavy but prisoners were forced to do heavy labor out in the open. The Communists wanted them to be killed, I am sure. However, wherever Rev. Moon happened to work, no bombs were dropped. The prisoners were one by one taken out to be shot in turn. A miracle saved his life.
Rev. Moon put on a pair of socks I had knit for him and walked for ten days to reach Pyongyang. He stayed with us for a month.
Q. Rev. Moon's North Korean days were an uninterrupted series of suffering and hardship. Now, tell me how he fared once he came down to South Korea.
A. I went south with my own family. As for Rev. Moon, he did so with Mr. Chung Hwa Pak, a chief jailer at Hungnam. Mr. Pak was accused of being a communist and beaten. His legs were broken. But Rev. Moon put him on a bicycle and along with Won Pil Kim came down south. It was a big risk to say the least.
Mr. Pak decided to stay to live in Kyung Joo, while Rev. Moon and Mr. Won Pil Kim went on to Pusan. They stayed for a while at a friend's, and through Rev. Sang Do Hahn found where I lived. Rev. Moon sent Mr. Kim over to me. The first question I put to him was what clothes Rev. Moon wore, and got the reply that he still wore the same clothes he had in the north. I sold yards of cloth I had saved for both of them, and found a room for them. Several days later, I made clothes out of what was left and brought them over.
In the spring of 1951, Rev. Moon lived in a mountain during the days and worked as a dock laborer during the night. Won Pil Kim worked in a restaurant for a while and then found a job in the U.S. Army. Rev. Moon built a shack in Bum-il-Dong, Pusan; for one winter I cooked for them there. In the meantime, Mr. Eu (President of H.S.A. of U.W.C.) and others came along to join us. On May 1, 1954, the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity was officially established.
Then many professors and students of Ehwa University joined the family. We had a large group, so we moved to another place in Hung In Dong. Then on April 27, 1955 we again moved to Jang Chun Dan. Around this time five professors from Ehwa University were dismissed and fourteen students kicked out of the university.
About three months later, on July 4, Rev. Moon, along with many staff members, was arrested and imprisoned in Seodaemun prison. It was our daily task to pay a visit to the prison. Since the prison was built, no one received a larger delegation of visitors. On October 4, Rev. Moon was acquitted and freed, and soon the others were released. Won Pil Kim was released on Christmas Eve. Soon after Rev. Moon's re lease, we again moved to a house in Chung Pa Dong. There was a big blessing ceremony. It was here that the Unification Church took off.
Q. Thank you kindly for talking to us so long about Rev. Moon and the Church, from its early beginnings up to now. You have told us what you saw, felt, and thought without reserve. You must be proud of him when you meet Rev. Moon, who has made the Unification Church into a world wide religious organization. Well, tell us what you want to the new-comers in the church.
A. It is said that our Church is on trial again. In Korea, we have on our hands the so-called Il Hwa problem; internationally we also have our hands full with hostility and persecution mounted against us. Rev. Moon's life has been built on patience and more patience. In spite of opposition and contempt, he has won a laurel of victory around his head. Our present "difficulties" can be turned into another rung in the ladder of success for us. If we look upon these difficulties as objective lessons, we must lessen the burden on Rev. Moon's shoulders and do all we can to fulfill our Heaven-sent mission.