WorldTies: Unification Church has long history in Kodiak
- Unification Church has long history in KodiakArticle published on Friday, September 30th, 2005By ANDREW WELLNERMirror Writer
Services at the Unification Church in Kodiak arent much different from services in other churches.
Members sing devotional songs. They say prayers, pass an offering plate and discuss past and future church events.
Sometimes theres a video describing the churchs mission and activities in America and abroad. Afterwards members have lunch together and children play on the lawn outside.
The only apparent difference is that services are often bilingual since the congregation is composed of native English, Korean and Japanese speakers.
It seems hard to call the church a cult. But since the church came to Kodiak, it has been called just that. And much more.
Unificationists in Kodiak
Next year marks the 25th anniversary of the opening of International Seafoods fish processing plant in Kodiak.
International Seafoods, now doing business as True World Seafoods, has strong connections to the Unification Church, the 50-year-old church headed by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.
In 25 years, church elder and longtime Kodiak resident David Cooper says, A lot of things have changed in Kodiak.
And some things have stayed the same.
The controversy surrounding the UCs entry into Kodiak reached its peak in 1979.
International Seafoods had purchased land and began the process of building a fish processing plant on the island.
Some people were accepting of the new church. Many more were not.
It is essential that every effort be made to preserve the sanctity of free thought, and to deny any cult or organization the right to desecrate the youth which is the future of this nation, a letter in the Kodiak Daily Mirror from the time reads.
How are we to know the objective of International Seafoods is not to impose by its churchs unique system of brainwashings its religious control? a letter from the now-defunct Kadiak Times reads.
Cooper remembers even more hysterical protests: There were people who said we were going to stop the ocean and the tide coming in, he said.
The Kodiak Island Borough filed a lawsuit against the company over disputes about parking at the plant. There were disputes over the facilitys proposed dock, which some thought would jut too far into the channel, interfering with channel traffic as well as boats trying to dock at neighboring facilities.
The term Moonie, a slang term for church members which has since gained a somewhat derogatory tone, was splashed across headlines and sprinkled through articles. People took to the streets in an anti-Unificationist demonstration.
A cult expert and a former member of the church who had since been, deprogrammed came to town to warn residents about the churchs recruitment practices.
Church members complained that they had trouble finding housing and that residents would keep their children from playing with the children of church members.
Even the cannery didnt do well at first. Cooper recalls that early on they couldnt even buy fish to process. For the first year they processed fish for other canneries.
Cooper came to the island to work as an engineer at the plant in 1982.
We built a cannery but no one would sell us fish, he said, theorizing that maybe rumors had got round that the fishermen would not be paid if they did business with the plant.
To solve the problem, Cooper said, We hired some boats from the salmon tenders and we went down to Chignik Lagoon and had a big sign on all the boats that said, Cash.
They paid cash for fish and did very well that year.
Gradually the community warmed up to the Unificationists. The cannerys business did well and members found life in Kodiak much easier.
UC in Kodiak today
Today, nobody is taking to the streets demonstrating against the Unificationists. And very few hold anti-church opinions.
Rev. Moon comes to the island at least once a year, sometimes two or three times, to fish. His visits cause no big stir.
But Cooper readily admits that the church is still quite insular.
Its been a concern of mine that we have never been able to get involved in the community. Its like were very secretive, he said.
But we have nothing to hide.
The line between proselytizing and educating people about Unificationism is very thin. Even in 1979, the Daily Mirror reported International Seafoods vice president Ted West as voicing similar concerns.
West and other church members are caught in an awkward position of being unable to distribute information on their religion without appearing to be proselytizing or recruiting in Kodiak, a Daily Mirror article from September of 1979 reported.
The most recent events the Unificationists hosted in Kodiak were two banquets at the Old Powerhouse restaurant. The first was for 80 Korean VIPS, generals, statesmen, businessmen, all non-church members. The second, to which the public was invited, saw 62 church members from out of town and approximately 40 Kodiak non-church members.
Its not uncommon for Unificationsists to come to Kodiak for meetings or to fish, Cooper said. And when they come, people start to wonder. Other incidents, such as one two years ago when one of the churchs boats almost sank, inspired even more curiosity.
All you see is these people in orange rain gear and they get on the bus and go out and you see them fishing but whats it all about? he said.
So the church decided to hold a banquet, show some videos and try to educate people about their faith and Unificationism in general.
Members went door-to-door to advertise the event. A lot of people they met were reticent to attend, something Cooper finds unfortunate.
If people would get past their fears, and have a look, they would find a tremendous amount that they would appreciate.
He said the church has a lot of common ground with other faith groups.
Indeed, Unificationism has a lot of facets of which the church is only one, Cooper said. The Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, the umbrella organization of which the church is a part, holds conferences and meetings dedicated to promoting world peace, examining the sciences, combating world hunger and other social justice issues.
Members refer to the organization as the movement.
The UC and the economy
Through the years, True Worlds Group the company which owns True Worlds Seafoods and has close ties to the church expanded its presence in Kodiak.
The company now owns two processing plants along with the Russian Heritage Inn, the Old Powerhouse restaurant and all of the property between the True Worlds cannery on Marine Way and Global Seafoods.
Some of the property, like the original cannery built in 1981, Cooper said the company has considered selling. The cannery hasnt operated since, he estimated, 1996. But their business runs differently than most.
Moon approves land purchases. And once his stamp of approval is on a transaction and the property is in hand, the company cant sell it without his consent.
While the business isnt owned by or even formally affiliated with the UC, they do have tight connections. Moon does the bulk of the decision making for both the church and the company.
And members move back and forth. Rev. Cheol Ho Bang, now the pastor at the Kodiak church, worked for a few years in the company. And Jang Kim, an executive at the plant, was once a pastor.
Cooper said the company is a way Moon found to make the church and its associated movements for world peace self-sufficient.
The movement estimates that 90 percent of its resources go toward various activities they sponsor to promote social justice issues.
As Kim puts it, although the church and the company are separate, We actually go toward the same goal to make a kind of ideal world.
Indeed, Moon has said he got into the fish business as a way to combat world hunger.
In addition to the Bible, church members study Moons teachings. One of the most important is a companion to the Bible Moon penned the Divine Principle.
To Unificationists, Moon is the messiah. He is not Jesus reborn, but a man on earth with the same mission as Christ.
While praying on a Korean mountainside at the age of 16, Moon has said, he was visited by Jesus. Christ told the young Moon that he had died before he could fully complete his mission. Jesus asked Moon to finish the job.
A common perception is that Moon preaches that Jesus failed. Jesus didnt fail, so much as others failed to receive his message, Coopers wife Deanna said.
Jesus didnt fail but there was a failure or a lack at that time of people uniting with him. And ultimately, due to misunderstanding on the part of the people, he was killed, she said.
Part of the unfulfilled portion of Jesus mission, Unificationists believe, was to raise a family, Kim said. Jesus family would then be an ideal for others to follow. Moon has 13 children.
God sent Jesus but unfortunately he couldnt have sons and daughters. The second coming messiah (came) to restore the idea of family, Kim said.
The core of Unification teaching is that since the fall of man, when Adam and Eve were ejected from the Garden of Eden, God has been working to restore humankind to its past perfection.
War, strife and conflict are all due to a lack of love, church members say. As people strive to develop love, through familial relationships and pious living, the world will move closer to the peaceful ideal.
The way to achieve this is through family. A harmonious family, with children raised in a parent-child relationship with God, will lead to a harmonious community and a harmonious world.
The hope, Cooper said, is that children will learn, they shouldnt bicker or quarrel or fight when theyre kids so they wont when theyre politicians either.
Editors note: David Cooper is married to Daily Mirror fisheries reporter Deanna Cooper, also a longtime resident of Kodiak and a church elder.
Mirror writer Andrew Wellner can be reached via e-mail at awellner@....Damian J. Anderson Damian.Anderson@...