Articles from the October 1997 Unification News
Sun Myung Moon: The Early Years, 1920-53
By Michael Breen
Reviewed by Chris CorcoranThis is a unique book, written by an English Unification church member who has a broad journalistic background and a deep understanding of the Korean culture. These qualifications alone would give Mr. Breen the necessary foundation to write Father's biography. However, upon reading the first few chapters of his book, it becomes apparent that the author's talents extend far beyond journalism and propel this work into a seminal piece of literature.
While the book surely must have been an arduous labor of love for Mr. Breen, he is careful not to idealize Father's life story. The sensitively crafted book aspires to set the record straight. Like any good piece of research, it relies only on primary sources, those people who had first hand knowledge of the stories they're recounting. This is one of its main sources of power; the copious footnotes at the end of each chapter testify to the exhaustive and I'm sure exhausting research that went into the book.
Readers looking for controversy and scandal needn't waste their time here. However, souls seriously thirsty for details in the life of one of histories most complex and controversial figures can drink deeply from this well. As Mr. Breen succinctly states in his preface, "And so there are two Sun Myung Moons, the widely-known disturber of society, and the man who doesn't want to hurt God's feelings. This book is about the lesser-known man."
Beginning with Father's birth in 1920 and a fascinating account of his ancestry and village, the book takes us in ten chapters to the sending out of the first missionary in 1953 and the imminent founding of the Unification Church in 1954. The book ends abruptly at this point and I am told a sequel is in the works.
The author's ability to recount stories long familiar to most Unificationists and breathe new life into them is due partly to his extraordinary skills at conveying life in early 20th century Korea, particularly the lives of Christian Koreans. The high drama of Japanese colonization; the explosion of Christianity across the peninsula; and the horrific Korean war are never allowed to overshadow the main story line. In allowing the facts of Father's life to speak for themselves, unvarnished and straight forward, the greatest of all dramas unfolds as it should.
The book's greatness is also found in the hundreds of pieces of new information, at least to this reader, which add colorization to stories previously seen only in black and white. What was previously a patchwork of stories about Father, unevenly pieced together and often lacking in context and the human touch, now emerges as a seamless tapestry.
For the disciple of Father, there is new spiritual life to be found in these pages. They stand as a solid testimony to the trials, tribulations and victories of the man we admire and love. For the non-believer, or even the apostate member, this book may prove to be even more valuable, for it provides a doorway for belief and reconciliation. It's scholarly style of research and thoroughness result in what may be for many people a bridge to Father more easily crossed than theology alone can provide.
It's a book you can proudly hand to a friend or relative who is not in the church and be confident that the book is the best we have to date on Father's life. Until the time Father himself writes his auto- biography, this book will be the standard by which all other's are measured.
The Unification church, indeed the world, owes Mr. Breen its gratitude for compiling these testimonies and writing them in such a masterful way.
About The Author
Michael Breen is a consultant and writer who first went to Korea as a correspondent in 1982. He covered North and South Korea at different times for The Washington Times, The Guardian and The Times. He was the president of the Seoul Foreign Correspondents Club for three years during South Koreas period of democratization, and has traveled widely in North Korea. He is married with three children, and lives in Sussex, England.Sun Myung Moon: The Early Years 1920-53 by Michael Breen (Refuge Books) will be available from HSA Publications for $14.95.
Please call 212 997-0050 x 225 to order your copy of his extremely interesting book. A must read.
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