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Founder’s death stirs speculation about Unification Church’s business empire

Publication Date : 04-09-2012

 

The death of Rev. Moon Sun-myung, the founder of the Unification Church, on Monday, is prompting speculation over the future management of the church’s business arm and other affiliated organisations, whose combined assets are estimated at around 6 trillion won (US$5.3 billion).

While his youngest son Rev. Moon Hyung-jin is widely thought to be the de facto successor to run the church, the church’s business empire Tongil Group is currently chaired by the fourth son Kook-jin, a 42-year-old Harvard University graduate, since 2005.

According to industry data, the assets of 15 affiliates of Tongil Group were worth about 1.7 trillion won as of 2009. Their business areas include construction, newspapers, hospitals, schools, tourism, ski resorts, beverages and a professional soccer team.

The church also owns foreign media companies like The Washington Times and United Press International, cultural and art organisations like Korea’s Universal Ballet Company, and schools such as Sun Moon University and the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut.

Last year, the church announced it operated more than 50 business units and organisations globally in Japan, the US and South America as well as in Korea. Their total assets are estimated at around 6 trillion won, industry watchers assume.

One of the largest business projects launched by the Tongil Group was the “Yeosu Development Project”, in which 1 trillion won was poured to create a resort town in the southern port city. The group is considering another building project ahead of the PyeongChang 2018 Olympics.

The church is also known for holding expensive properties in Seoul’s key areas, including the planned international headquarters of the church in Yeouido and a mansion in Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu. They are worth more than 500 billion won in total.

Still, the exact size of the church’s assets has yet to be revealed to the public. A former director general of the church said in an interview last year, “The annual budget of the church is astronomical. It is impossible even to presume the exact figure.”

 

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