The Words of the Breen Family

Life In Hyungnam Prison

Mike Breen
October 19, 2001

Kim In-ho, who was an anti-communist activist in Father's cell, described in his book, and in private interviews, how some Christian ministers were scum. One even wouldn't share extra food with his own son-in-law. He singles out two religious prisoners as exemplary - one was a well known Presbyterian pastor, and the other was Father. His section on him is called, "Moon Sun-myung: the saint of the prison" or something like that. What impressed him was Father's personal discipline and willingness to help others. I think that a feature of this discipline was his dedication to the work. As he was not a political person, he did not think about resisting the communists, or sabotaging the factory. He was a religious man, struggling against himself.

We may have issues with Father but the story of his time in prison is to me demonstration of an extraordinary and in many ways admirable man he is. Through all his criticism of Father, Pak never budged on his account of Father in Hungnam. Forty years later, Pak was still marveling how in the horrendous surroundings of the labor camp, Father would be giving him visions of the future - "You know, one day with automation, one person could do all this work." While Pak is thinking, who gives a rat's arse about automation. What's for dinner?

From the perspective of Kim, the anti-communist, Pak would have been a collaborator. He was a North Korean army officer sentenced for crimes committed by his subordinates. Given this status, he was made the leader of the prisoners. In other words, the guy who didn't have to work but organized the teams and reported to the commandant (one of whom had gone to the same school as Pak). I asked Kim about Pak and he didn't recall him. I concluded that, as a young anti- communist, he may have thought Pak was actually part of the prison staff.

Pak's leg was broken by anti-Communists who beat him up. On the way South Father got beaten up by anti-communist vigilantes. In South Korea in those days, I think it was wise to say you were anti- communist. Like so many Koreans, Pak was not ideological. Father saw communism as evil, but did not speak out until later. Did they collaborate? Not really. They avoided making things worse for themselves in the prison.

It is an irony, but one which no one in South Korea holds against Father. Koreans understand that most people just try to survive, shrimp-like, as the whales of political power clash around them. Father wasn't an outspoken anti-communist in those days. He was a preacher. He developed VOC later, probably as a vehicle to get to the political leadership in Korea. The UC membership was never more than around 10,000 so in the 1960s he began to develop different growth strategies - VOC, business, culture, education etc.

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