The Words of Kook Jin Moon

Kook Jin Moon: Competent People Are Hired, Without Regard To Religious Affiliation

Hoi Kwon Kim
August 5, 2009

"This article was published in the leading South Korean news magazine Sisa Journal on August 5, 2009."

The Tongil Group is creating a stir in Korea and around the world. The Peace Cup Football Tournament it recently hosted in Spain included Real Madrid C.F. one of the most prestigious football clubs among its participating teams, and it is playing a part in building the Korea-Japan Undersea Tunnel. It also created a stir in communities around Yeosu by greatly scaling-down the Ocean Resort special zone business. Last March it revealed plans to purchase the Yongsan Citizens' Hall site in Yongsan, Seoul, for the largest Unification Church religious structure in Korea.

The person leading these enterprises is Kook Jin Moon (39), CEO of the Tongil Foundation, who is also the fifth son of Rev. Sun Myung Moon of the Unification Church. After taking over as CEO in 2005, he completely reformed the medium-sized group whose assets total some 1.3 trillion won. The group of companies, which recorded an operating loss of 40 billion won in 2004 with a debt to equity ratio of 767%, was transformed into a group making an operating profit of 40 billion won in 2008 with a debt ratio of 184%. Large donations contributed by church members in Japan played a significant role in removing the cumulative deficit. He graduated as an economics major at Harvard University in the United States and also received an MBA from University of Miami, after which he established KAHR, a weapons-manufacturing company, which was a great success. Thus, his business management ability won recognition from Rev. Moon. In contrast to the other medium-sized companies, which are experiencing difficulties due to the worldwide financial crisis, the Tongil Group is operating relatively safely thanks to its young navigator. On June 28th last, we met with CEO Moon at the Tongil Group CEO's office in the Dowon Building, located in Dohwa-Dong of Mapo-Gu, Seoul.

Question: Many companies are experiencing difficulties due to the worldwide financial crisis. How is the Tongil Group doing?

Answer: We are also affected. To begin with, sales have decreased. The Tongil Group focuses mainly on the leisure industry, and we made quite a profit in the sale of condominiums, but at present we are not faring as well in that, either. However, we carried out management restructuring in 2005, and our balance sheet is more solid than ever. Though we are also experiencing difficulties, we are relatively safer compared with other companies.

Question: Is the leisure industry the growth model of the Tongil Group?

Answer: Most of the group's assets lie in the leisure industry. Only when we do well in that industry can the entire group operate well. The truth is it is not easy to make money in the leisure industry. The scale of investment is big, and there are many risks. Though we have many guests on the weekends, there aren't many during the week. So we are researching new ways to make use of the facilities during the week in order to create an additional profit.

Question: Do you have a new business model?

Answer: When I assumed the position of the Chairman of the Board of the Tongil Foundation in 2005, many of the companies in the Tongil Group were incurring losses. In particular, such businesses as Yongpyong Resort were incurring an immense operating loss. From then until now has been a time of normalizing company operations. We are still in the stage of cutting expenses and putting the business organization in order. I believe it will take a few more years. Taking up a new business model will come after that.

Question: You own a large amount of real estate in Korea. Does that have anything to do with business?

Answer: From a long time ago, the Unification Church has owned large tracts of land, many of which are very good. They are worth more than the companies. If we could develop all the land to raise their value, we could create a large profit. Rather than selling the land when the price of real estate rises to gain a trading profit, we plan to develop them when the economy picks up so that we can gain development profits.

Question: Has the scaling-down of Yeosu Ocean Resort been decided?

Answer: The Yeosu Resort Project was not begun as a business to make money. It is continuously recording a loss, and there isn't a strong possibility that it will improve. We first began to make an investment with the aim of helping the development of the undeveloped southern region. Until now, many foreign companies have invested in Yeosu, but they are also in difficult situations. We are altering our business plans to have reasonable marketability and to guarantee profitability.

Question: What is the Tongil Group's role in the Korea-Japan Undersea Tunnel Project?

Answer: Rev. Sun Myung Moon has been thinking about the Korea-Japan Undersea Tunnel since a very long time ago. He believes that, when nations whose relationships aren't friendly are connected in a network that includes structures such as tunnels, this can bring about peace. However, the government should take charge of the project. The Korea-Japan Undersea Tunnel will require a great deal of funds, so it will be impossible to do unless the government steps in. The Tongil Group is only presenting an analysis of the technical adequacy and profitability. We are also playing the role of explaining the financial value of the Korea-Japan Undersea Tunnel to the Korean and Japanese governments.

Question: You are also running the Pyonghwa Motors business in North Korea. Are you supporting it in any way?

Answer: We don't give any support. It is only related to Tongil companies through Sang Gwon Park, the CEO of Pyonghwa Motors, a Unification Church member. There are no business interchanges. There is no one in the world who knows more about North Korea than CEO Park. He has been to North Korea more than 150 times, and he is well acquainted with those in charge in North Korea.

Question: The Tongil Foundation cannot be separated from the Unification Church.

Answer: Tongil Foundation is a non-profit organization. Its certificate of incorporation clearly states that the foundation supports the Unification Church. Our for-profit investments involve about four industries. We run the businesses and make a profit and give the profit to the Unification Church, and sometimes invest that money in the businesses. It is not that difficult to separate religion and financial management. The Tongil Group aims to make a profit, and the foundation owns the stock of the Tongil Group, so it receives a dividend. The mission of the Tongil Foundation is to support the Unification Church.

Question: What percentage of the staff working at the Tongil Group are church members?

Answer: When I took over as Chairman, only 10% of the staff at the Tongil Group were church members. Now the percentage has increased. Many of the staff members think well of the Unification Church and have converted. Their number is increasing.

Question: For example, experts on financial management would be needed at such places as Central City and Yongpyong Resort. Aren't there many such experts among church members?

Answer: No, there aren't, so we hire competent people. Even if they are not Unification Church members, if they are competent, we hire them.

Question: You built a successful company in the United States through your own efforts and were living comfortably. That being the case, didn't you hesitate when you were first asked to assume the position of Chairman of the Foundation?

Answer: I had to do it because my father had asked me to. I feel responsible, because I can help the community. When I came and got down to it, I found that there were many problems. The work I am doing is something that cannot but be stigmatized by others; it is not one that gives happiness. It is very trying. However, I am doing it because somebody has to do it. I would have been much happier if I had stayed in the United States.

Question: When Rev. Sun Myung Moon steps down, who will take charge of the Tongil Group and the Tongil Foundation?

Answer: I will stay in the position of the Chairman of the Tongil Foundation. As long as I am in that position, the purpose of the Tongil Foundation will continue to be to support the Unification Church. When the assets of the Tongil Group are managed to make profit, the profit goes into supporting the development of the church. My younger brother Hyung Jin is in charge of the church. He is responsible for the religious aspect, and my older brother Hyun Jin is in charge of overseas NGO activities. Even when my father steps down, we will continue to bear our share of responsibility and manage the Unification Church and the Foundation. 

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