|From Death Camp to Palace Embrace: A Miraculous Meeting in 1991|
As reported by CNN on Dec. 28, 2011, the elaborate funeral of the late Kim Jung Il in Pyongyang was closed to foreign dignitaries and to Western media. Some have wondered why the North Korean regime invited the American-born Hyung Jin Moon, head of the Unification Church International, and several members of his party to participate in the funeral rites that day. The special relationship between Rev. Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church, and the ruling family of North Korea goes back two decades to a surprise meeting between Rev. Moon and North Korean President Kim Il Sung. Rev. Moon’s motivation for visiting his homeland in 1991 can only be understood within the terms of his enduring religious vision, as explained in the following commentary by Dr. Thomas J. Ward, Dean of the International College, University of Bridgeport.
Rev. Sun Myung Moon's teachings on restoration and reconciliation attribute special meaning to the biblical reunion of Jacob and Esau after their twenty-one-year period of separation. Jacob had fled to Haran until the opportune moment to make peace with his brother. At the end of that period, they met near the site that Jacob named Penuel (meaning "face of God"). On meeting and embracing his brother Esau, Jacob told him, "For to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably" (Gen 33:10).
In November 1991, Rev. Moon returned to North Korea after an absence of some forty years. He met Kim Il Sung in the North Korean leader's residence located near Heungnam. The fertilizer factory at Heungnam had been the location of the North Korean death camp where Rev. Moon spent two years and eight months as a prisoner of conscience from early 1948 until late 1950.
Rev. Moon's and Kim Il Sung's November 1991 encounter was videotaped. Rev. Moon embraced Kim Il Sung without any hesitation. His earnest desire was to dissolve the chasm of the past and to greet President Kim as his lost elder brother. He even addressed President Kim as "Elder Brother." Like Jacob, he made peace with his brother and chose to forget the past.
Kim Il Sung felt liberated and found in Rev. Moon a long-lost brother who reminded Kim that "blood was thicker than water." The two exchanged gifts, and there was talk of investments in North Korea. However, Rev. Moon had not come to North Korea to do business but to open the door to peace at the highest level. His sincerity touched Kim Il Sung, and it touched his son Kim Jong Il who, from that time, sent a gift to Rev. Moon every year on the occasion of Rev. Moon's birthday.
Rev. Hyung Jin Moon's visit to the North at the time of the memorial services for Kim Jong Il are consistent with Rev. Moon's ongoing effort to build trust and a sense of family with the Kim family and the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea (DPRK). The visit is definitely not about economic relations. It is about a man of God visiting Pyongyang in its hour of grief and extending his hand in friendship as the DPRK's leaders ponder the future.