The Answer for Religious and Social Problems Lies in the Family
Weekly Chosun, Korean National Major Weekly Magazine, (February 1, 2016 issue)
translated by PR Department of Tongil Group
Interview with Kyeung-Seuk Ryu Family Federation Korean President
We met President Kyeung-Seuk Ryu (52) at his office in the headquarters of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification in Cheongpa-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, on the 22nd of January. The Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (Unification Church, Family Federation) was founded by Reverend Sun Myung Moon in 1954, and with its foundation in Korea, it currently has over three million members in Japan, America and in 194 other countries throughout the world. It is especially famous for its mass blessing ceremonies where thousands of couples simultaneously get married in an indoor gymnasium or convention center. It is commonly known as the Unification Church, but after the passing of Reverend Sun Myung Moon in 2012, his wife Dr. Hak Ja Han changed the name that has been being used up until now, the Family Federation.
President Ryu was appointed as the Korean President of the Family Federation by Dr. Han. The Korean President is the position that handles all of the believers of the Family Federation. We heard from President Ryu, who is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Tongil Group, about the operation plans of the Family Federation for the new year.
-This is to be your 3rd anniversary after taking office as the Korean President. What are the goals of the Family Federation for this year?
“The Family Federation sees the year 2016 as the beginning of the ‘Four Years of Hope’ towards year 2020. After Reverend Moon passed away in 2012, the Family Federation proclaimed the 2nd leap and went forth on its path. The first word of Reverend Moon that Dr. Han passed on was the ‘no stopping.’ A seven-year plan leading up to the year 2020, also the 100th Anniversary of the Birth of Reverend Moon, is to be set, and we wish to make this a time where the sixty years of history of the Family Federation can be shared with our citizens. Of the seven-year journey the first three years are to be the first half, and the remaining four years are to be the other half. If the past three years was a period where the internal stability of the Family Federation was solidified by the use of our infrastructure, then the next four years shall be the period where the sixty years of history of the Family Federation can be maximized. The year 2016 is to be the turning point of the beginning of the second half of the ‘unending march.’
-Does this mean that you are to expand the domestic congregation even more actively this year?
“We plan not only to commit to religious propagation activities, but also various activities in order to help the culture of the Family Federation settle in our communities. Our plan is to start with activities that will make our doctrines, traditions, culture and thoughts assimilate with the local citizens through festivals and community service in our society. Bringing in two million families (6~8 million people) as believers by the year 2020 in order help the Family Federation mature into a religion of the people is our goal.”
-At the New Year’s press conference, you mentioned the ‘religion of the people.’ What does a religion of the people mean?
“A religion of the people is a religion that is deep inside our society. The cultures in our lives, if look at them closely, have distinct religious characteristics. The Birthday of Buddha and Christmas Day used to be religious holidays, but today they have become days when all of us share our feelings for happiness and harmony in our families and spend time together. A religion where such generalization of the religious holidays, consciousness and lifestyle habits ingrain themselves deeply into our society is what we call a religion of the people. The Catholic Church, Protestantism and Buddhism can be pointed out as religions of the people in Korea. Confucianism can also be included as a religion of the people. That is because even though the amount of believers is relatively small, the foundations of Korean culture are quite Confucian. The Family Federation also believes that the culture, consciousness and lifestyle habits of the Family Federation can deeply take root in our society. We plan on developing activities that can create substances that are universal and can improve the quality of life, but to keep the distinct characteristics of the Family Federation.”
-Has the recent congregation of the Family Federation been increasing or decreasing?
“After checking ourselves, for the past three years more than 5,000 people have joined the Family Federation annually. For the last five years, the average number of people attending services has increased 11.9%, and offerings have increased 6.9%. It may not be a big increase, but it is steadily growing.”
– Last year, the Leader of National Defense in North Korea, Kim Jong-Un, sent condolence flowers in commemoration of the 3rd anniversary of the passing of Reverend Moon. Does this mean that the Family Federation might be able to play a role in the reconciling the currently strained relations between North and South Korea?
“It is such a sensitive issue, so I would like to premise a remark. It is true that the Family Federation has a close relationship with North Korea, but the Korean government has an even closer one. If the relations between North Korea and the South Korea government were more neutral, then our position, of course, would be the same. The reason we commit to activities in North Korea is to open an era of unification by the creating a friendship between the North and the South. Therefore, when it comes to the Korean government enforcing policies in North Korea, we devote ourselves to not standing in their way. We are approaching the matter very cautiously so that no actions or activities that stiffen the relation between North and South Korea will occur. In the process, the original plans for missionary work and economic exchange are being considerably intimidated.”
-Why is the Family Federation helping North Korea?
“The thoughts of Reverend Moon before he passed away and the thoughts that Dr. Han currently has are that in order for peace to be realized, religious prejudice, political infighting and party strife must not exist. It is the same between countries. Only when the structural economic and technological standards of countries are established can world peace be realized. If a country that is economically and technologically advanced helps countries that are developing, and the resources of the developing countries are exported to the advanced country, peace can be realized more quickly. North Korea is one the countries that is falling back the most in the world, and that is why the Family Federation must help North Korea.”
-What is the current status of the businesses helping North Korea?
“It is well-known that the Family Federation has been operating Pyong Hwa Motors and the Botong River Hotel in North Korea. The development of Kumgang Mountain was originally a project that we promoted. As Koreans cannot enter North Korea in person, Family Federation members with nationalities of either Japan or America have supported the enterprises in North Korea. There is one principle we keep when doing business in North Korea or Third-World countries. It is that the profits made in that country must not be routed to foreign countries, but are to be reinvested into that country. So according to this principle, the management rights of Pyong Hwa Motors, the Botong River Hotel and other technology support were presented to North Korea in 2012. At this time, the members who were responsible for the businesses in the past are now just providing management consultation by coming and going to North Korea, and North Korea itself is operating the companies.