Mother of Peace: Episode 35

Mother of Peace: And God Shall Wipe Away All Tears from Their Eyes
A Memoir by Hak Ja Han Moon
Chapter 5: The Emblem of the Kingdom of Heaven, pg 163-168

In early 1981 when my husband and I heard that The Washington Star, the conservative voice in Washington, D.C., was closing down, we were concerned. There were two well-established newspapers in that city, The Washington Star and The Washington Post. The Washington Star, which had been in operation for over 130 years, had run into financial difficulties. Soon there would be only one newspaper in the most politically powerful city of the United States, and that newspaper, The Washington Post, was left-leaning in its editorial stance.

There was a need for a newspaper in Washington that would protect faith, freedom and family values, and no American conservatives were willing to step into the breach. When my husband and I decided to take this on, people trying to be prudent and wise told us again and again that it would be difficult to publish a new newspaper in the capital of the United States. We had never shied away from a task because it was difficult, and we didn’t then.

On May 17, 1982, after a great deal of effort to find a building and printing presses and hire competent, dedicated staff, the first issue of The Washington Times was published. Opponents said that The Washington Times would be a propaganda instrument for the Unification Church but such words reflected prejudice.

It is difficult these days to run a newspaper at a profit, and The Washington Times lost money from the outset. Yet its absence would leave no conservative newspaper in the US capital. It would mean the newspaper that championed faith and family would have disappeared. Seeing the financial spreadsheets, people wondered, “How long until they close down?” Nonetheless, the more they doubted us, the greater was my husband’s and my faith, and the greater was the commitment of The Washington Times staff.

Together with them, we resolutely defended democracy while advocating family values, morality and the role of women. As a result, the newspaper’s popularity grew. Every year, the paper did better, and now in the age of the internet, it is one of the most influential newspapers in the United States.

At a banquet to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the newspaper’s founding, we received congratulatory messages from well-known leaders worldwide. Former US President Ronald Reagan let people know that we played a key role in defeating communism when he said of the newspaper:

“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.”

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom also expressed her gratitude. She sent greetings, saying:

“In difficult times, even more than in easy ones, the voice of conservatism must make itself heard in the media. It isn’t always easy, but of this, we can be sure: While The Washington Times is alive and well, conservative views will never be drowned out.”

The Washington Times is influential, yet it is not a newspaper appealing only to the elite. It represents all people and inspires citizens to live decent and healthy everyday lives. The Washington Times has established itself as a voice of truth for people all over the world.

Justice after tears

In the 1990s, when the Chinese government initiated its Northeast Asia Project to clarify historical facts and protect that area’s stability, the Segye Ilbo newspaper sent a correspondent to the cities of Dalian and Dandong to do research. The correspondent was eager to visit the site of the Lushun Courthouse in Dalian, formerly a Japanese colonial court in that city, which the Japanese called Ryojun. Yet the courthouse, where a number of Korean patriots had been unjustly tried, was nowhere to be found. The Chinese government had long since sold the building.

My husband and I heard this report with heavy hearts. It pained Koreans to hear how the historical footprints of our heroes and heroines of the Independence Movement, who had risked their lives for Korea’s freedom, were gradually disappearing. We decided to buy the building.

To us, the Lushun Courthouse is priceless. It represents the suffering of the Korean people in modern history and the legacy of their patriotic spirit. Our viewpoint, shared by many Koreans, was that such a historic site should not have fallen into indifferent hands.

In the end, after negotiating with the owner, the Segye Ilbo Corporation bought the building and restored the Lushun Courthouse as a museum. They invited experts to visit the site and, after conducting thorough research of old documents, they recreated the original courtroom. The Lushun Courthouse site is now a must-see historic landmark for freedom for young people from China and Korea and others who visit Dalian.

As this was a project benefiting all of Korea, we invited Korean citizens to contribute money. In 1993, through the Segye Ilbo Corporation, we founded the Yeosun Patriotic Martyrs Memorial Foundation Corporation. Besides gathering historical stories about the bravery, determination and sacrifice of those who fought for Korea’s independence, the Foundation also works for peace in Northeast Asia.

Historically, relations between neighboring countries in northeast Asia have been complicated. Creating peace is like unraveling a ball of tangled yarn; it is difficult to find where to begin. But nothing will be accomplished by sitting with arms crossed. When the Segye Times Corporation reconstructed the Lushun Courthouse, it did so to capture the anguish of the past age and enable visitors to experience the history of the Korean people overcoming a national crisis. It also points to the importance of creating peace within and among nations.

* * * 

As well as launching newspapers in Japan and the United States, our movement launched Tiempos del Mundo in Latin America and The Middle East Times in Istanbul. But it was only in 1989 that the Korean government instituted the freedom of the press that allowed us to launch the Segye Ilbo newspaper in Seoul. 

Since a religious movement founded the newspaper, we naturally faced opposition. As in the United States and Japan, mockery circulated. “Just watch it become a mouthpiece promoting the Unification Church,” people said, “It’ll be nothing but a religious tract.” The haughtiest voices predicted, “It’ll stop printing before the year is out.”

But our determination to produce a professional news source that could serve Korea by providing fair and unbiased news and opinion was unwavering. On February 1, 1989, the presses started up and 1.2 million copies of the first edition of Segye Ilbo came rolling out. We held fast to the creed that the news media must be the voice of conscience and of the truth. This conviction has remained steadfast for more than 30 years. 

Our efforts garnered more than just verbal criticism. After Segye Ilbo exposed the Korean ruling party’s corruption, innocent and unrelated enterprises we had founded were suddenly subjected to overbearing tax investigations that drove some into bankruptcy. The government targeted companies such as Tongil Industries, which produced essential machine parts, and Dongyang Agricultural Machinery, which manufactured specialized farming equipment, and forced them to shut down. Various powerful interests demanded that we fire the newspaper’s chief editor.

We did not surrender to threats or enticements; instead, we raised the banner of social justice and virtue. Over time, with steadfast publishing of valuable news and opinion, Segye Ilbo has prevailed.

When my husband and I conceived of Segye Ilbo, we knew it was being born into the world at a turbulent time. Though it has stood alone as a pine tree in an empty field, Segye Ilbo has consistently defended justice while exposing fraud, corruption and other social ills. The newspaper caters to no political ideology or religious group. Its editors and reporters are exemplary professionals investing their blood, sweat and tears for the citizens of Korea and of the world.

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