Next Article in Journal
Chastity as a Virtue
Next Article in Special Issue
The Cao Đài Deathscape: Reimagining Death, Funerals, and Salvation in Contemporary Vietnam
Previous Article in Journal
Understanding the Letter to the Romans in the Sect-Cult Development of Early Churches
Previous Article in Special Issue
The Dialectical of Life and Death in Contemporary Sōka Gakkai
Open AccessArticle

The Unificationist Funerary Tradition

Department of Religious Studies, University of Vienna, 1010 Vienna, Austria
Religions 2020, 11(5), 258;
Received: 22 April 2020 / Revised: 16 May 2020 / Accepted: 17 May 2020 / Published: 20 May 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Funerary Traditions of East Asian New Religious Movements)


This paper explores the distinctive funerary tradition of the Unification Movement, a globally active South Korean new religious movement founded in 1954. Its funerary tradition centres on the so-called Seonghwa (formerly Seunghwa) Ceremony, which was introduced in January 1984. The paper traces the doctrinal context and the origin narrative before delineating the ceremony itself in its Korean expression, including its preparatory and follow-up stages, as well as its short-lived adaptation for non-members. Notably, with more and more first-generation adherents passing away—most visibly in respect to the leadership culminating in the Seonghwa Ceremony of the founder himself in 2012—the funerary tradition has become an increasingly conspicuous property of the Unificationist lifeworld. This paper adds to a largely uncharted area in the study of East Asian new religious movements, namely the examination of their distinctive deathscapes, as spelled out in theory and practice.
Keywords: Unification Church; funeral; death; ritual; new religious movement; Korea; East Asia Unification Church; funeral; death; ritual; new religious movement; Korea; East Asia

1. Introduction

“‘Death’ is a sacred word. It is not a major expression for sorrow and pain. […] The moment one enters the spiritual world is a time that one enters a world of joy and victory with the earthly life having blossomed, the fruits borne, and the grain ladled. It is a moment we [i.e., those staying behind] should rejoice. It should be a time when we celebrate wholeheartedly. It is a time when we should be shedding tears of joy and not tears of sorrow. Such a holy and sublime ceremony is the Sŭnghwa Ceremony, for it is the first step the departed takes towards enjoying the eternal life in God’s embrace. [One’s death] should be a time when one feels a more bosom-trembling excitement than how a newlywed bride feels at the moment when she goes to her groom’s home”.
On 3 September 2012, Mun Sŏn-myŏng 문선명/文鮮明 (1920–2012),2 the founder of the South Korean Unification Movement, passed away following a bout of pneumonia.3 The funeral service, conducted twelve days later and attended by some 30,000 to 35,000 faithful, aired live via web stream and was also picked up by the international media. This allowed public glimpses into a ritual field of crucial importance to Unificationism but hardly known to the outside observer. In fact, this has not always been the case. Whereas death naturally had its place in terms of doctrine and ritual life before, a tragic demise within Mun’s own family twenty-eight years earlier paved the way for a distinctive Unificationist funerary custom—the so-called Seunghwa Ceremony (sŭnghwasik 승화식/昇華式), presently known as Seonghwa Ceremony (sŏnghwasik 성화식/聖和式)—and concomitant doctrinal reverberations.
Western scholarship on Unificationism has hitherto touched on the subject merely en passant (Chryssides 1991, pp. 155–57; Baker 2007, pp. 506–7; Pokorny 2018b, pp. 337–38). Research in Korean is limited to a few (emic) contributions by Sun Moon University-based Unificationist scholars (Kil 2002; C. Yang 2007; P. Yang 2007, 2010). Overall, Western scholarly interest in the Unification Movement dropped significantly from the 1990s, when the majority of (Western) first-generation members fell publicly silent while settling into family life. At the time, the newly devised funerary tradition was still largely only a matter of theory, for the then average Western first generation member was still in her/his 30s and 40s, rendering funerals outside the Unificationist heartlands—that is, South Korea and Japan—relatively rare.
In a first step, this paper delineates the foundational tenets relevant to the Unificationist view vis-à-vis death and the spiritual world. Next, the origin story of the Seonghwa Ceremony as well as its doctrinal impact are introduced. An outline of its formalised ritual sequence in the Korean context, the preparatory and follow-up proceedings, and a brief detour on the Seonghwa Blessings for non-Unificationists builds the next part of this paper. A few concluding notes cast a quick glance at the wider Unificationist funerary culture management.

2. Doctrinal Context

Unification Theology is vitally informed by three biblical accounts—the Fall; Jesus’s crucifixion; and Revelation (see Pokorny 2018b, pp. 329–33). Whereas the latter two provide respectively the raison d’être and the millenarian momentum of Unificationism, the former is deemed the gateway to the “secrets” of cosmo- and anthropogenesis. The (post-Mun) tradition maintains,4 that these secrets were unearthed (in a cosmic struggle with Satan) by Han Hak-cha and Mun, who, subsequently, disclosed them to humankind establishing Unificationism. At the centre of the Unificationist reading of the Fall stands the purpose assigned to creation by the Heavenly Parent (Hanŭl Pumonim 하늘부모님; i.e., God) and its eventual non-observance by the ancestral couple Adam and Eve. The very rationale behind creation is seen in Heavenly Parent’s genuine (and self-imposed) sense of complementarity (susu chagyong 수수작용/授受作用; literally, “give and receive action”), culminating in the creation of humans qua potentially ideal “object partner.” In order to fulfil Heavenly Parent’s vision, Adam and Eve were tasked to erect the Four Position Foundation (sawi kidae 사위기대/四位基臺). That is, a divinely blessed True Family (ch’am kajŏng 참가정) of (1) husband, (2) wife, and (3) child(ren), unifying in utmost love by dint of their joint alignment towards (4) Heavenly Parent. Such idealised Edenic constellation—called Cheon Il Guk (ch’ŏnilguk 천일국/天一國) in more recent Unificationist vernacular—would have extended further,5 embracing the growing humankind alongside the axis tribe, nation, and world/cosmos. Yet, sexual misconduct provoked by their tutor, the archangel Nusiel 누시엘,6 thwarted Cheon Il Guk’s realisation, for Adam and Eve instead built a Four Position Foundation centring on Nusiel-turned-Satan. Consequently, fallenness stained the first couple and their progeny (and so all of humankind), rendering the world a “hellish realm” for some 6000 years (see Pokorny 2017b). Various biblical individuals, and foremostly Jesus, were divinely slated to consummate Heavenly Parent’s providence of restoration, that is, the actualisation of Cheon Il Guk. Everyone failed but not Han and Mun, who, through a life course of accelerating salvific achievements (see O 2012) are held to have ultimately inaugurated the “cosmic”-level Substantial Cheon Il Guk (silch’ejŏk ch’ŏnilguk 실체적 천일국/天一國定着) in February 2013. The progressively solidifying (as yet still embryonic) Cheon Il Guk would entail the gradual unification of the interdependent physical (yukkye 육계/肉界) or corporeal world (yuhyŏng [silch’e] segye 유형[실체]세계/有形[實體]世界) and the spiritual (yŏnggye 영계/靈界) or incorporeal world (muhyŏng [silch’e] segye 무형[실체]세계/無形[實體]世界), which together form the “universe” or “cosmos” (ch’ŏnju 天宙).7 This division is meant to correspond to the “mind-body division” of the human, resembling Heavenly Parent’s susu chagyong-induced Dual Characteristics (isŏng sŏngsang 이성성상/二性性相), which, in fact, is deemed to pattern all of creation. Being the pinnacle of creation, humans should venture to fulfil its (i.e., their) very purpose while alive. This they can do through emulating the ways of Han and Mun, who are seen as the first humans ever to fully embody the Purpose of Creation (ch’angjo mokchŏk 창조목적/創造目的) and thus becoming the real ancestral couple or, emically, the True Parents of Heaven, Earth, and Humankind (ch’ŏnjiin ch’am pumonim 천지인참부모님).
Unificationist (i.e., Mun’s) views towards the spiritual world were first comprehensively systematised in 1995 by Yi Sang-hŏn 이상헌/李相軒 (1914–1997), the Founding President of the Unification Thought Institute (T’ongil sasang yŏn’guwŏn 통일사상연구원/統一思想硏究院) (Yi 1995).8 He died shortly thereafter but is held to have “resumed” his research on-site. His subsequent “findings” were accordingly published in various posthumous volumes (see, especially, Kim and T’ongil Sasang Yŏn’guwŏn 1998), significantly informing the Unificationist discourse on the spiritual world.9 Serving as the second key “spiritual informant” in this respect was Han’s deceased mother, Hong Sun-ae 홍순애/洪順愛 (1914–1989) (see Kim 2006).10
Unificationists believe that upon one’s death the body (yuksin 육신/肉身) is shed and the eternal spirit or “body of the spirit being” (yŏnginch’e 영인체/靈人體) naturally enters the spiritual world, which is deemed everyone’s original Eternal Homeland (yŏngwŏnhan ponhyang 영원한 본향).11
In Edenic times, the spiritual world was meant to be a single heavenly realm, namely the Kingdom of Heaven in Heaven (ch’ŏnsang ch’ŏn’guk 천상천국/天上天國); however, the Fall brought about division into a Principled (wŏllijŏgin 원리적인) and a Non-principled (piwŏllijŏgin 비원리적인) Realm in the spiritual world.12 The former is the Kingdom of Heaven in Heaven to which the spirits of staunch devotees are given direct access. The latter is sub-divided into: the Interim Spiritual World (chunggan yŏnggye 중간영계/中間靈界); a three-tier Hell (chiok 지옥/地獄); the Spirit Form-Level Spiritual World (yŏnghyŏngch’e kŭp yŏnggye 영형체급영계/靈形體級靈界); and a three-tier Paradise (nagwŏn 낙원/樂園).
Guided by other spirits and angels, the spirits of the recently deceased would first arrive in the Interim Spiritual World where they stay for up to fifty days. After a while, they are presented with a life review, which, being visible to bystanders, reveals in great detail the full catalogue of sins and good deeds amassed during one’s physical existence. The quality of one’s life conduct then determines to which area of the Non-principled Realm to proceed. The subsequent relocation occurs deliberately and is guided by denizens of the abode-to-be who witnessed the life review.
Hell would welcome those having lived a life antithetical to Unificationism. The degree of their past evil assigns new arrivals to one of the three layers that are characterised by an increasingly tormenting environment. Whereas murderers and those who died by suicide call the second layer home, the third one is populated by mass murderers and genocidal tyrants. Yet, even Hell dwellers may eventually resettle in one of the upper realms. With the dawn of Substantial Cheon Il Guk, such transitions occur more and more frequently.
The deceased who were not cleansed from their fallenness—through the Blessing Ceremony (ch’ukpoksik 축복식/祝福式) or the parental inheritance thereof—but practiced virtue while alive, would ultimately leave the Interim Spiritual World for the Spirit Form-Level Spiritual World. This realm is envisioned to be earth-like but exceedingly more beautiful, brightly immersed in the light of love. Its ageless spirit inhabitants, all dressed in white, live together harmoniously and engage in professions of building and creation. Their inventions shine forth to the physical world where they are embraced and actualised by the spiritually gifted. Moreover, the spirits may even temporarily descend to the physical world to assist individuals on their path towards goodness—an activity Unificationists call “returning resurrection” (chaerim puhwal 재림부활/再臨復活; see WK I.5.2-3).
Spirits whose spiritual and moral qualities are even more advanced would enter Paradise, an even brighter and more beautiful realm, divided into three areas of increasing scenic majesty and bliss. Save for Jesus, all religious founding figures such as Buddha, Confucius, Muhammad, and Tonghak’s 동학/東學 (Eastern Learning, 1860) Ch’oe Che-u 최제우/崔濟愚 (1824–1864) dwell in the second layer, whose inhabitants are apparelled in light-emitting white and are crowned with a golden halo. Jesus resides in the uppermost paradisiacal realm. He cannot yet relocate to the Principled Realm, which is only reserved for the spirits of devout Unificationists who have erected the Four Position Foundation, the mission Jesus failed to accomplish.13 These spirits are entering this most splendid part of the spiritual world directly upon death. However, for the time being until Substantial Cheon Il Guk is fully solidified and, concomitantly, the Non-principled Realm ceases to exist, the vast majority of Unificationist spirits would occupy a threshold area therein. From this “antechamber” they journey to lower levels of the spiritual world or to the physical world in order to facilitate the solidification, while also elevating their own spiritual qualities even further. Once the solidification comes to fruition, all spirits will enter the Kingdom of Heaven in Heaven. But even there they are initially meant to occupy different regions according to their spiritual/moral progress and hitherto overall millenarian performance. Presently, the Kingdom of Heaven has only a few residents, foremostly including, inter alia, Mun and his son Mun Hŭng-jin 문흥진/文興進 (1966–1984), Hong Sun-ae, and Yu Hyo-wŏn 유효원/劉孝元 (1914–1970), the first HSAUWC Korea president. The solidification is thought to result in the merger of the physical and the spiritual worlds, their inhabitants freely communicating with each other. In the course of time, the then unified spiritual world would apparently grow into soteriological uniformity in line with Heavenly Parent’s Purpose of Creation—a state that is meant to persevere for all of eternity.

3. Origin

A distinct funerary tradition within Unificationism commenced in January 1984 following the demise of Mun and Han’s second eldest son, Hŭng-jin (“Richard”). While one of their daughters had already passed away in 1964 shortly after birth, he was the first of the remaining thirteen so-called True Children (ch’am chanyŏ 참자녀) to die having reached (early) adulthood. The cause of his passing in the St Francis hospital in Poughkeepsie on 2 January 1984 was severe brain injuries following a car accident on New York State Route 9 eleven days earlier. His body was transferred to South Korea where the first ever (World) Seunghwa Ceremony was held on 8 January in the Unification Movement’s Little Angeles School. From a Unificationist perspective, with his death, Hŭng-jin turned into both a moral exemplar for the living and a salvific agent in the spiritual world.
As one of the former chief Unificationist dignitaries, Pak Po-hŭi 박보희/朴普熙 (1930–2019), stated in his Seunghwa address: “Deep in our hearts we should remember Heung Jin Nim as the greatest of filial sons to our True Parents, the most loyal of followers, the most glorious hero of the Unification Movement, and the saint of saints” (Pak 1999, p. 485). Mun Hŭng-jin’s hagiography (see also, e.g., CPG 7.3.2, pp. 793–803) describes the car accident as an act of twofold sacrifice and bravery. On the one hand, he deliberately sacrificed himself by swerving his car so that the unavoidable impact of a sliding semi-trailer truck hit the driver side thus saving his passengers. On the other hand, he willingly gave himself for the sake of True Parents’ mission, for he thus deflected the persistent attacks by Satan which were endangering the True Family. Indeed, being the epitome of filial piety (hyo 효/孝), Hŭng-jin did not immediately succumb to his grave injuries but wondrously and steadfastly endured. Rather, he went comatose for several days so that his father could unimpededly complete a crucial providential objective in South Korea and, subsequently, solemnise the most important “great holy day” (taemyŏngchŏl 대명절/大名節) in the Unificationist ritual calendar, namely True God’s Day (ch’am hananim’ŭi nal 참하나님의 날) on 1 January.14 Mun and Han, knowing that Hŭng-jin would not recover, conducted a ceremony at his deathbed, that is, the Unification Ceremony (t’ongilsik 통일식/統一式), ritually offering their son to Heaven for the sake of humanity, the Korean people, and all Unificationists (see MS 2002d, p. 88). To this end, Mun advised the doctor a day later to remove the oxygen mask enabling Hŭng-jin to pass over to the spiritual world, where he accomplished an even more staggering feat. In Mun’s words (MS 2002b, pp. 52–54):
“Hŭng-jin is an Abel-type son. […] He went to the spiritual world in the position of the realm of direct dominion on the victorious base indemnifying the realm of dominion of Satan. That is why he had the condition of being the son who for the first time since the Fall went to the heavenly world furnished with the perfected qualification. […] Now, before all the spirit beings in the spiritual world, even before Jesus and all the good saints, Hŭng-jin is the first one to be born as the eldest son centring on the realm of heart. […] Satan does not transfer an inheritance but he pillages. But Hŭng-jin, being in the realm of the first son, delivers all the blessings he received while on earth.”15
According to Unification Theology, upon his death and by virtue of his salvational achievements in the physical world (being an archetypal True Child), Mun Hŭng-jin performed three historic salvific deeds.16 Firstly, he was the very first human spirit in the spiritual world to enter and become a resident of the Kingdom of Heaven. In so doing, on the one hand, he opened the gates to the Principled Realm to all stalwart Unificationists—although for the time being they may only abide in its “foyer.” On the other hand, he brought the physical and the spiritual worlds closer together enabling better communication lines between the two. Secondly, as the embodiment of True Love (ch’am sarang 참사랑) he maintained a permanent channel to True Parents, which capacitated him to vicariously bestow redemption upon the willing inhabitants of the spiritual world. All this rendered Mun Hŭng-jin the new King of Heaven with his predecessor, Jesus, as his aide.17
He is deemed the “one who opened the gates of the spiritual world as the Messiah of Love” (MS 2002a, p. 202)18—True Love that was instilled through True Parents. Radiating through Mun Hŭng-jin it is held to have illuminated the Realm of Death (samanggwŏn 사망권/死亡圈), turning it into the Realm of Love (saranggwŏn 사랑권). In other words, by gaining a foothold in the spiritual world through their deceased son, True Parents’ salvific power is thought to have “recaptured death.” That is to say, the Fall stripped death of its divinely assigned purpose, namely to serve as a joyful transitional moment sending off the spirit to the Kingdom of Heaven in Heaven. With the Kingdom of Heaven in Heaven having been made inaccessible, death became attributed with fear.
However, according to Unificationism, due to the dual sacrifice of True Parents offering their son and Mun Hŭng-jin offering himself—envisaged as the re-enactment of God’s sacrifice of Jesus and the latter’s self-sacrifice—the original purpose of death was reclaimed and fear was therefore defeated. This providentially momentous event is annually solemnised by Unificationists ever since on 3 January as Day of the Victory of Love (aesŭngil 애승일/愛勝日).19 Even more significantly, with death having now (re-)gained a soteriological quality, its ritual processing too was assigned a salvific function: The funeral ceremony (changnyesik 장례식/葬禮式) qua sorrowful farewell service knowing that the spirit of the deceased is incapable of entering the Principled Realm shifted to the Seunghwa Ceremony (sŭnghwasik), in which the participants are meant to rejoice in the blissful rebirth of the spirit in the Kingdom of Heaven in Heaven.

4. The Seonghwa Ceremony

The term sŭnghwa 승화/昇華 is a compound: sŭng 승/昇 literally means “to ascend,” “to rise,” or “to go up,” but may also refer to being “promoted” or “elevated,” whereas hwa 화/華 in this context denotes “splendour,” “glory,” or “brilliance.” The standard dictionary meaning of sŭnghwa is “sublimation.”20 Here it variously indicates the transition from a bodily to a spirit being and the transition (through the “bridge of love”) from a lower to a higher dimension (MS 2002c, p. 317; Kil 2002, p. 147; P. Yang 2007, pp. 158–59). On 9 November 2011, Mun and Han gave notification that—starting with the funerary ceremony for Kim Sang-ch’ŏl 김상철/金相哲 “David” (1915–2011), a top-ranked Unificationist elder and the first-ever “missionary” (1954 to the United Kingdom), on 10 November—the Seunghwa Ceremony had to be renamed to Seonghwa Ceremony (sŏnghwasik) in line with the providential/millenarian progress made.21 The term sŏnghwa 성화/聖和 consists of two parts: sŏng 성/聖 here refers to “sacred” or “holy” and hwa 화/和 to “harmony” or “peace.” The resulting neologism literally means “sacred harmony.”22 However, the change of name carried merely symbolic value and did not bear any effect on the ritual procedure or its aesthetic and material dimensions.
There exist seven categories of the Seonghwa Ceremony, divided in increasing order by the amount of worldly and overall providential/church-related merits attained during one’s “principled” life course: (1) Family Seonghwa Ceremony (kajok sŏnghwasik 가족성화식/家族聖和式); (2) Church Seonghwa Ceremony (kyohoe sŏnghwasik 교회승화식/敎會聖和式); (3) Religious Work Seonghwa Ceremony (kyoyŏk sŏnghwasik 교역성화식/敎役聖和式); (4) Parish Seonghwa Ceremony (kyogu sŏnghwasik 교구성화식/敎區聖和式); (5) Association Seonghwa Ceremony (hyŏphoe sŏnghwasik 협회성화식/協會聖和式);23 (6) World Seonghwa Ceremony (segye sŏnghwasik 세계성화식/世界聖和式);24 (7) Cosmic Seonghwa Ceremony (ch’ŏnju sŏnghwasik 천주성화식/天宙聖和式), hitherto taking place only for Mun himself (see Pokorny 2013, pp. 128–29). The duration of the Seonghwa Ceremony can be variously arranged, taking place on one day or—more commonly—spanning over three, five, or seven days (C. Yang 2007, p. 37). It is divided into three main parts: (1) the Gwihwan/Ghihwan Ceremony (kwihwansik 귀환식/歸歡式; (literally, returning to joy), which may be omitted; (2) the Seonghwa Ceremony; and (3) the Wonjeon Ceremony (wŏnjŏnsik 원전식/原殿式 [formerly, 元殿式]; literally, [returning to] the palace of origin). Below an ideal-typical funerary procedure in the Korean context is described.25 For many years, the standard reference for Unificationists regarding general etiquette and rituals—and, in particular, the Seonghwa Ceremony—in both English and Korean were Kwak (1985, 1997), respectively. More recently, specific Seonghwa guides were made available, such as Sin Han’guk Kajŏng Yŏnhap Kajŏngguk (2020); Family Federation for World Peace and Unification USA (2016); Selig (2014) (also see Selig 2013).

4.1. Preparation

Both preparation and execution of the Seonghwa Ceremony are in the hands of the Seonghwa Committee (sŏnghwa wiwŏnhoe 성화위원회/聖和委員會), whose composition depends on the size of the planned event.26 It is ordinarily formed ad hoc by family members and, possibly, friends of the deceased (emically, the sŏnghwaja 성화자/聖和者), but may also involve a professional provider. Once a person has passed, the bereaved immediate family has the intimate opportunity to individually bid good bye during the farewell service (songbyŏl yebae 송별예배/送別禮拜), while at the same time a prayer vigil commences with family members taking turns continually or, more commonly, every few (ideally: three) hours. Also, there may only be a nightly vigil every three hours from 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., if at all, depending on the circumstances. If possible, in accordance with the Korean tradition,27 the dead body will be washed and adjusted (combed, finger nails clipped, ritually covered, etc.)—a process which is traditionally called yŏmsŭp—and placed with the head turned northward upon a wooden board (ch’ilsŏngp’an 칠성판/七星板).28
Provided the location of the passing or general logistics allows it, a separate room—serving as the funeral hall (ponganso 봉안소/奉安所)—is prepared for the Gwihwan Ceremony.29 It is cleansed with the Unificationist multi-purpose consecration material, the Cheon Il Guk Holy Salt (ch’ŏnilguk sŏngyŏm 천일국성염/天一國聖鹽).30 An altar/table is then set up covered by a white cloth, or alternatively the FFWPU or Unification Movement flag. On it is placed a recent photograph of the deceased in a nice frame (preferably decorated with flowers) and usually arranged with a white (or, rarely, black) ribbon, alongside a (mostly framed) scroll inscribed (traditionally in hanja 한자/漢字, i.e., Chinese characters) with the deceased’s name, two Cheon Il Guk Candles (ch’ŏnilguk sŏngch’o 천일국성초) in holders lit with Cheon Il Guk Matches (ch’ŏnilguk sŏngsŏngnyang 천일국성성냥), and small bowls of Holy Salt and incense. Additionally, the altar as well as the surrounding area are lavishly decorated with floral arrangements (preferably roses and lilies). Occasionally, several bowls with fruits (apples, oranges) and various biscuits are likewise placed on the altar. Above is hung a banner with the designation sŏnghwa written in hanja (or, internationally, it simply states “Seonghwa Ceremony”), indicating the name of the deceased, and, frequently, the Seonghwa Ceremony category and (church-related) function (e.g., National Messiah, Pastor) as well as the date according to the Unificationist Heavenly Calendar (ch’ŏllyŏk 천력/天曆) of the Cheon Il Guk Age.31 Overall, it is most important that the premise appears in light and not dark colours in order to express the most joyous occasion, which in its salvational significance is understood to even surpass that of the Blessing Ceremony (Kwak 1997, p. 136).32 In the background, a tape with Holy Songs (sŏngga 성가/聖歌) is oft-times played.
Usually twenty-four hours after the passing, the Encoffining Ceremony (ipkwansik입관식/入棺式), called by Unificationists ipchŏnsik 입전식/入殿式 (literally, “entering the palace ceremony”), takes place. Accompanied by prayers, the body is washed again and a burial garment (suŭi 수의/襚衣)—emically, Seonghwa Garment (sŏnghwabok 성화복/聖和服)—is donned, which concludes the yŏmsŭp procedure. The casket—called chŏn 전/殿 (literally, “palace”) by Unificationists in lieu of the standard term kwan 관/棺—is cleansed with Holy Salt and fitted with rice paper, a white cloth, and a thin mattress. The body is then placed into the coffin alongside holy salted special personal items and key scriptures (formerly centring on the Wŏlli kangnon 원리강론/原理講—the central Unificationist text until 2013). The immediate family and close relatives may gather and bid farewell facing the body (possibly) a last time before the coffin is closed. A myŏngjŏng is made, that is, normally a red banner on which is written in yellow or white the name and honours of the deceased. Subsequent to the Encoffining Ceremony, a food sacrifice is made to the spirit (sangsik 상식/上食) which should ideally be conducted at 7:00 a.m. If the circumstances permit, the casket may be brought to the funeral hall, where it is placed on a catafalque or a pedestal located behind (or sometimes in front of) the altar. This concludes the preparation stage of the Seonghwa Ceremony.

4.2. The Seonghwa Ceremony

The Gwihwan Ceremony is a memorial/farewell service where family and friends gather. When paying their respect to the deceased and immediate family members, the visitors might share testimonies about the deceased. The casket, on which is spread the FFWPU flag (or, previously, that of the Unification Movement), may be opened or remain closed during the ceremony. Instead of a prescribed procedure, the Gwihwan Ceremony may be conducted according to the will of the deceased. The middle part of the overall Seonghwa Ceremony carries the same name—Seonghwa Ceremony. It may take place in the same venue as the Gwihwan Ceremony. Frequently, however, it is held in another premise, such as a church-related or hospital facility. The ceremonial location is called Seonghwa Ceremony Hall (sŏnghwa sikchang 성화식장/聖和式場). Its set-up is virtually identical with that of the funeral hall. At a defined time, the Seonghwa Ceremony starts with usually six (rarely eight or ten) white-gloved pallbearers (un’gu 운구/運柩; or, emically, pongsong wiwŏm 봉송위원/奉送委員) entering the venue carrying the casket. Family members as well as everyone serving in an official role—but also, preferably, every other attendee—have to adhere to a formal dress code (save for the pallbearers who might don, e.g., white gowns), namely white or light coloured clothes for women and a black or dark blue suit, a white shirt, and white tie for men.33 The Seonghwa Ceremony must not be moderated by a family member but by a friend of the deceased or a church official.
A sample sequence is as follows: (1) formal opening by the master of ceremonies (sahoeja 사회자/司會者); (2) jointly sung holy song; (3) individually assigned prayer; (4) (burning incense and) offering the National Flowers (kukhwa 국화/國花) of Cheon Il Guk (hŏnhwa 헌화/獻花)—a white lily (offered by women) and a red rose (offered by men)—by family and (possibly towards the end of the ceremony representative) guests; (5) biographical and achievement account of the deceased; (6) theologically minded address (sŏnghwasa 성화사/聖和辭); (7) laudatory address/eulogy; (8) jointly sung holy song; (9) blessing; (10) concluding remarks by the master of ceremonies.
Subsequently, a funeral cortege leaves the Seonghwa Ceremony Hall for the hearse in a defined order—head of ritual (chimnyeja 집례자/執禮者), who holy salts the entire path of the procession; the scroll carrier and the portrait carrier (occasionally vice versa); pallbearers; family; and other attendees (who are chanting a holy song). Once at the cemetery, the cortege marches to the burial site (emically called wŏnjŏnji 원전지/原殿地) where the last part of the Seonghwa Ceremony starts—the Wonjeon Ceremony (wŏnjŏnsik), that is, the interment ceremony (conventionally called hagwansik 하관식/下棺式 in Korea). The geomantically (p’ungsu 풍수/風水) proven burial ground has been prepared in advance. When the cortege arrives, the head of ritual formally opens the Wonjeon Ceremony tipping some Cheon Il Guk Holy Salt and, subsequently, Cheon Il Guk Holy Earth into the burying place. The latter serves the purpose of connecting the burial ground to the Garden of the Original Homeland (ponhyangwŏn 본향원/本鄕苑), that is, the Edenic final resting place of True Parents, and by extension, the Kingdom of Heaven in Heaven. Next, the pallbearers lower the casket on ropes into the ground. The casket is then covered with hanji 한지/韓紙 (traditional Korean paper) on which the myŏngjŏng is unfolded. Atop is spread a white cloth with the FFWPU emblem, which is itself cloaked by the ch’ilsŏngp’an. An upper part of the ch’ilsŏngp’an is set aside so that the FFWPU emblem is once again visible. A family representative hands some lilies and roses used at the Seonghwa Ceremony, as well as new sacrificial flowers to the head of ritual who covers the emblem with them. Prayers are uttered, holy songs sung, and brief sermons and eulogies delivered. The ch’ilsŏngp’an part is put back again and the soil offering (hyŏnt’o 현토/獻土) commences, in which family members and selected dignitaries in succession shovel soil into the burial pit. Finally, led by the head of ritual the assembled crowd gives three cheers of ŏngmanse 억만세/億萬歳,34 which formally concludes the Wonjeon Ceremony.

4.3. Follow-Up

Back home, the immediate family ought to set up an altar covered by a white cloth, preferably located in the living room of the deceased. Atop is placed a portrait flanked by two Cheon Il Guk Candles—all three items previously used at the Seonghwa Ceremony. In front of the portrait is placed a tray on which, once a day during the principal meal, a portion is offered to the spirit of the deceased. This offering should be combined with a brief prayer on whose occasion incense may be burned. This daily service (maeil yebae 매일예배/每日禮拜) ought to be conducted over twenty-one or forty days. Additionally, largely in line with traditional Korean customs, post-Seonghwa commemorative rites should be performed. Firstly, three days after the Wonjeon Ceremony (which is counted as Day 1 by Unificationists), the family and, possibly, close friends assemble at the grave to carry out samuje. There the deceased is ritually remembered and paid reverence, offering flowers and food while burning incense and chanting prayers. This may be repeated at the burial place on the twenty-first, the fortieth (which is most commonly observed by Unificationists)35 and the one-hundredth day after the interment. Further ancestral memorial rites (ch’arye 차례/茶禮 or chesa 제사/祭祀) henceforth held annually may take place on common occasions such as the death anniversary or the harvest festival in the middle of the eighth lunar month (ch’usŏk 추석/秋夕).

4.4. Extra Ecclesiam Salus Est?

Whereas a fully-fledged Seonghwa Ceremony is still the prerogative of Unificationists, in various 2010 events, Mun and Han bestowed Seunghwa Blessings (sŭnghwa ch’ukpok 승화축복/昇華祝福) to selected deceased non-Unificationists, who were deemed to have vitally contributed to the millenarian vision of Unificationism, particularly owing to their peace, welfare, and generally self-sacrificing activities.36
The first such event titled “Honoring a Legacy of Peace” was held on 18 March 2010 in the New York UN headquarters,37 “involving” the spirits of Alexander Haig (1924–2010), a general and Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan (1911–2004; p. 1981–1989);38 former South Korean president and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Kim Tae-jung 김대중/金大中 (1924–2009; p. 1998–2003); Hédi Annabi (1943–2010), the head of the UN Stabilisation Mission in Haiti, and some one-hundred of his staff, who died when the Port-au-Prince UN Headquarters collapsed during the Haiti Earthquake; former Costa Rican president Rodrigo Carazo Odio (1926–2009; p. 1978–82) called by Mun a Peace President (p’yŏnghwa’ŭi taet’ongnyŏng 평화의 대통령) for his role in the establishment of the University for Peace; former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid (1940–2009; p. 1999–2001); former Icelandic prime minister Steingrímur Hermannsson (1928–2010), who hosted the 1986 Reykjavík Summit between Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev (b. 1931); the Senegalese head of the Tijaniyyah Sufi order Hassan Cissé 1945–2008); and the Indian politician and diplomat Laxmi Mall Singhvi (1931–2007), whom Mun called an Ambassador of Reconciliation and Peace (hwahae’wa p’yŏnghwa’ŭi taesa 화해와 평화의 대사). On 13 April 2010, the first of a corresponding series of events held in South Korea—the World Peace Leaders Memorial Unification Seunghwa Festival Commemoration Meeting (segye p’yŏnghwa chidoja ch’umo t’ongil sŭnghwa ch’ukche kinyŏm taehoe 세계평화지도자추모통일승화축제기념대회/世界平和指導者追慕統一昇華祝祭紀念大會)—was staged in Seoul.39 There the Seunghwa Blessing was once again given to Haig, Kim, Annabi, Carazo Odio, and Wahid. Additional receivers were Douglas MacArthur (1880–1964); the former South Korean minister of labour Cho Ch’ŏl-gwŏn 조철권/趙澈權 (1929–2007); the former Nepalese prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala (1924–2010); the naval diver Han Chu-ho 한주호/韓主浩 (1958–2010), who died on a rescue mission for the Ch’ŏnan corvette which was scuppered by a North Korean torpedo in March 2010;40 and, surprisingly, also the Unificationist elder Kim Wŏn-p’il 김원필/金元弼 (1928–2010), who had already obtained a World Seunghwa Ceremony a few days prior.
After the steady flow of ceremonies in 2010, chiefly mirroring the first New York event, in later years this format was only very sporadically and in a low-key fashion utilised by national/local branches, such as the ones of Ghana and the United States. In the latter case, for example, in 2014 the likes of Nelson Mandela (1918–2013) and Martin Luther King Jr (1929–1968) alongside local Las Vegans were given the Seonghwa Blessing (sŏnghwa ch’ukpok 성화축복/聖和祝福). Since then, the practice of non-member Seonghwa Blessing effectively came to a halt.
In Unification theological terms, this newly devised format was thought to enable the receivers to grow closer to God allowing them to move up the hierarchy of residence in the spiritual world. In the words of Mun, he opened for them the “door to the exalted eternal life” (Mun 2010, p. 15).41 While this is surely intended to mean a soteriological elevation, it does not put the non-Unificationist sŏnghwaja on a salvational par with a deceased devoted member. Instead, it merely salvifically empowers non-Unificationist spirits to embark on a more clearly demarcated Unificationist trajectory in the spiritual world geared towards the Principled Realm.

5. Concluding Remarks

With a now well-established and distinctive funerary tradition in place and owing to its aging membership (and leadership) and, concomitantly, a rising number of deaths (including most echoingly that of Mun himself), since the 2000s one not only encounters an increasingly professionalised funerary management with Seonghwa expert committees, etc.42, but a visibly increasing general concern for adequate burial space. The latter manifests, among others, in a growing, albeit still relatively small, number of specific Unificationist “burial areas” or Wonjeons (wŏnjŏn 원전/原殿).43 Whereas the main (Korean) Wonjeon—the P’aju Wonjeon (P’aju wŏnjŏn 파주원전/坡州原殿)—located in Mugŏn 무건/武建 Village close to the North Korean border has been in operation since the early 1970s but with a limited capacity (by 2013, only some one-hundred members were buried there),44 another one—the Ch’unchŏn Wonjeon (Ch’unchŏn wŏnjŏn 춘천원전/春川原殿)—opened in 2014 in the Kangwŏn Province capital offering space for nearly two thousand plots.45
Elaborately ingrained in Unification Theology and ritually drawing upon an amalgam of traditional Korean and conventional Christian custom, the Seonghwa tradition articulates a distinctive practice (also highlighted by a special emic nomenclature)—a practice, which, over the years, has become a central element of the Unificationist lifeworld.


This research received no external funding.

Conflicts of Interest

The author declares no conflict of interest.

Glossary of Korean Names

Cho Ch’ŏl-gwŏn 조철권/趙澈權Cho Chull-kwon
Han Chu-ho 한주호/韓主浩Han Joo-ho
Han Hak-cha한학자/韓鶴子Hak Ja Han Moon
Hong Sun-ae 홍순애/洪順愛Soon Ae Hong (Dae Mo Nim)
Kim Sin-uk 김신욱/金信旭Shin Ook Kim (Lady Dr. Kim)
Kim Hyo-nam 김효남/金孝南Hyo Nam Kim (Hoon Mo Nim)
Kim Tae-jung 김대중/金大中Kim Dae-jung
Kim Wŏn-p’il 김원필/金元弼Won Pil Kim
Kim Yŏng-sun 김영순/金英順Young Soon Kim
Kim Yŏng-un 김영운/金永雲Young Oon Kim
Mun Hŭi-jin 문희진/文喜進Hee Jin Moon
Mun Hun-suk 문훈숙/文薫淑Hoon Sook “Julia” Moon
Mun Hŭng-jin 문흥진/文興進Heung Jin “Richard” Moon
Mun Hyo-jin 문효진/文孝進Hyo Jin “Stephen” Moon
Mun Sŏn-myŏng 문선명/文鮮明Sun Myung Moon
Mun Yŏng-jin 문영진/文榮進Young Jin ‘Phillip’ Moon
Pak Chung-hyŏn 박중현/朴重昡Joong Hyun Park
Pak Po-hŭi 박보희/朴普熙Bo Hi Pak
Yi Sang-hŏn 이상헌/李相軒Sang Hun Lee
Yi Yo-han 이요한/李耀翰Yo Han Lee
Yu Hyo-wŏn 유효원/劉孝元Hyo Won Eu


CPGCh’am pumogyŏng: Ch’ŏnilguk kyŏngjŏn 참父母經: 天一國經典 (Segye P’yŏnghwa T’ongil Kajŏng Yŏnhap 2015)
CSGCh’ŏnsŏnggyŏng: Ch’ŏnilguk kyŏngjŏn 天聖經: 天一國經典 (Segye P’yŏnghwa T’ongil Kajŏng Yŏnhap 2013)
MSMun Sŏn-myŏng sŏnsaeng malssŭm sŏnjip 文鮮明先生말씀選集 (Mun Sŏn-myŏng Sŏnsaeng Malssŭm P’yŏnch’an Wiwŏnhoe)
UNUnited Nations
UPFUniversal Peace Federation
WKWŏlli kangnon 원리강론 [Exposition of the Principle] (Segye P’yŏnghwa T’ongil Kajŏng Yŏnhap [1966] 1999)


  1. Baker, Don. 2007. Rites of Passage in the Unification Church. In Religions of Korea in Practice. Edited by Robert E. Buswell Jr. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 497–507. [Google Scholar]
  2. Beverley, James A. 2005. Spirit Revelation and the Unification Church. In Controversial New Religions. Edited by James R. Lewis and Jesper Aagaard Petersen. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 43–59. [Google Scholar]
  3. Chryssides, George D. 1991. The Advent of Sun Myung Moon: The Origins, Beliefs and Practices of the Unification Church. Basingstoke and London: Macmillan. [Google Scholar]
  4. Family Federation for World Peace and Unification USA. 2016. Guide to the Seonghwa Ceremony: Prepared by the District One Seonghwa Committee. FFWPU District One. [Google Scholar]
  5. Kil, Yŏng-hwan 길영환. 2002. T’ongil kyohoe’ŭi chugŭm’ŭi ihae’wa sŭnghwasik 통일교회의 죽음의 이해와 승화(昇華)식 [Understanding Death in the Unification Church, and the Seunghwa]. Sinjonggyo yŏn’gu 신종교연구 [New Religion Studies] 7: 146–62. [Google Scholar]
  6. Kim, Chi-hye 김지예. 2006. Yŏnggye’ŭi silsang’gwa chisang segye’ŭi kwan’gye’e taehan t’ongil wŏllijŏk koch’al: Ch’ŏnjujŏk 3 taech’ukpok saenghwar’ŭl chungsim’ŭro 영계의 실상과 지상세계의 관계에 대한 통일원리적 고찰: 천주적 3대축복 생활을 중심으로 [A Study of the Relationship between the Reality of the Spiritual World and the Earthly World from the Unification Principle Perspective: Centring on the Life of the Cosmic Three Great Blessings]. Master’s thesis, Ch’ŏngsim sinhak taehagwŏn taehakkyo 청심신학대학원대학교 [Ch’ŏngsim Graduate School of Theology], Yongin, Korea. [Google Scholar]
  7. Kim, Yŏng-sun 김영순, and T’ongil Sasang Yŏn’guwŏn 통일사상연구원. 1998. Yŏnggye’ŭi silsang’gwa chisang saenghwal: Yi Sang-hŏn sŏnsaeng’i yŏnggye’eso ponaen mesiji 영계의 실상과 지상생활: 이상헌 선생이 영계에서 보낸 메시지 [The Reality of the Spiritual World and Life on Earth: Mr Yi Sang-hŏn’s Messages from the Spiritual World]. Sŏul 서울: Sŏnghwa ch’ulp’ansa 성화출판사. [Google Scholar]
  8. Kwak, Chung Hwan, ed. 1985. The Tradition: Book One. New York: H.S.A.U.W.C. [Google Scholar]
  9. Kwak, Chŏng-hwan 곽정환. 1997. Segye P’yŏnghwa T’ongil Kajŏng Yŏnhap yebŏp’kwa ŭirye. Chŏnt’ong 세계평화통일가정연합 예법과 의례 傳統 [Family Federation for World Peace and Unification Etiquette and Ceremonial: The Tradition]. Sŏul 서울: Sŏnghwa ch’ulp’ansa 성화출판사. [Google Scholar]
  10. Mun Sŏn-myŏng Sŏnsaeng Malssŭm P’yŏnch’an Wiwŏnhoe 文鮮明先生말씀編纂委員會, ed. 2002a. Mun Sŏn-myŏng sŏnsaeng malssŭm sŏnjip <che 130 kwŏn> 文鮮明先生말씀選集 <第130卷> [The Selected Sermons of Mun Sŏn-myŏng, Book 130]. Sŏul 서울: Sŏnghwa ch’ulp’ansa 成和出版社. [Google Scholar]
  11. Mun Sŏn-myŏng Sŏnsaeng Malssŭm P’yŏnch’an Wiwŏnhoe 文鮮明先生말씀編纂委員會, ed. 2002b. Mun Sŏn-myŏng sŏnsaeng malssŭm sŏnjip <che 131 kwŏn> 文鮮明先生말씀選集 <第131卷> [The Selected Sermons of Mun Sŏn-myŏng, Book 131]. Sŏul 서울: Sŏnghwa ch’ulp’ansa 成和出版社. [Google Scholar]
  12. Mun Sŏn-myŏng Sŏnsaeng Malssŭm P’yŏnch’an Wiwŏnhoe 文鮮明先生말씀編纂委員會, ed. 2002c. Mun Sŏn-myŏng sŏnsaeng malssŭm sŏnjip <che 137 kwŏn> 文鮮明先生말씀選集 <第137卷> [The Selected Sermons of Mun Sŏn-myŏng, Book 137]. Sŏul 서울: Sŏnghwa ch’ulp’ansa 成和出版社. [Google Scholar]
  13. Mun Sŏn-myŏng Sŏnsaeng Malssŭm P’yŏnch’an Wiwŏnhoe 文鮮明先生말씀編纂委員會, ed. 2002d. Mun Sŏn-myŏng sŏnsaeng malssŭm sŏnjip <che 225 kwŏn> 文鮮明先生말씀選集 <第225卷> [The Selected Sermons of Mun Sŏn-myŏng, Book 225]. Sŏul 서울: Sŏnghwa ch’ulp’ansa 成和出版社. [Google Scholar]
  14. Mun, Sŏn-myŏng 문선명. 2010. Ch’ŏnjiin ch’ambumo chŏngch’ak silch’e malssŭm sŏnp’o taehoe 천지인참부모정착실체말씀선포대회 [The True Parents of Heaven, Earth, and Humankind’s Settlement of the Substantial Word Proclamation Assembly]. In World Assembly to Proclaim the Substantial Word of God and the Era of the Parents of Heaven, Earth and Humankind. New York: Unification Church of America, pp. 13–19. [Google Scholar]
  15. Mun, Pyŏng-jo 문병조. 2016. Yŏnggyeron’e kwanhan t’ongil sasangjŏk chŏpkŭn 영계론에 관한 통일사상적 접근 [A Unification Thought Approach to the Spiritual World Theory]. T’ongil sasang yŏn’gu 통일사상연구 [Unification Thought Studies] 10: 291–338. [Google Scholar]
  16. O, T’aek-yong 오택용. 2012. Mun Sŏn-myŏng sŏnsaeng’ŭi sŏnp’osig’ŭl t’onghan hananim’ŭi sŏmni ihae 문선명 선생의 선포식을 통한 하나님의 섭리이해 [Understanding God’s Providence through Mun Sŏn-myŏng’s Proclamation Ceremonies]. Ph.D. thesis, Sŏnmun taehakkyo 선문대학교 [Sun Moon University], Asan, Korea. [Google Scholar]
  17. Pak, Bo Hi. 1999. Truth Is My Sword, Volume 2: Inspirational Messages and Personal Testimonies to Reverend Moon. New York: The Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity. [Google Scholar]
  18. Pak, Joong Hyun, and Andrew Wilson. 2006. True Family Values, 3rd ed. New York: Family Federation for World Peace and Unification. [Google Scholar]
  19. Park, Chang-Won. 2010. Cultural Blending in Korean Death Rites: New Interpretive Approaches. London: Continuum. [Google Scholar]
  20. Pokorny, Lukas. 2013. “The Millenarian Dream Continued”: Foundation Day, Vision 2020 and the Post-Mun Unification Movement. Vienna Journal of East Asian Studies 4: 123–57. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  21. Pokorny, Lukas. 2014. Millenarian Retrospects and Prospects: The Post-Mun Unification Movement in Austria. In Religion in Austria. Edited by Hans Gerald Hödl and Lukas Pokorny. Vienna: Praesens, vol. 2, pp. 127–79. [Google Scholar]
  22. Pokorny, Lukas. 2017a. A Feminising Revolution: The Unification Movement and the “Age of Women”. Interdisciplinary Journal for Religion and Transformation in Contemporary Society 5: 214–34. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  23. Pokorny, Lukas. 2017b. “Nusiel Unbound”: The Archangel and the Fall in Unification Thought. In Fall Narratives: An Interdisciplinary Perspective. Edited by Zohar Hadromi-Allouche and Áine Larkin. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 90–104. [Google Scholar]
  24. Pokorny, Lukas. 2018a. Austrian Unificationists Meet Their Messiah: The 1969 European Blessing, Its Context, and Aftermath. In Religion in Austria. Edited by Hans Gerald Hödl and Lukas Pokorny. Vienna: Praesens, vol. 4, pp. 1–51. [Google Scholar]
  25. Pokorny, Lukas. 2018b. Unification Movement. In Handbook of East Asian New Religious Movements. Edited by Lukas Pokorny and Franz Winter. Leiden and Boston: Brill, pp. 321–42. [Google Scholar]
  26. Pokorny, Lukas, and Dominic Zoehrer. 2018. Austrian Unificationist Perspectives vis-à-vis the Cheon Il Guk Constitution, with an Annotated Bilingual Translation of the Text. In Religion in Austria. Edited by Hans Gerald Hödl and Lukas Pokorny. Vienna: Praesens, vol. 4, pp. 205–88. [Google Scholar]
  27. Segye P’yŏnghwa T’ongil Kajŏng Yŏnhap 세계평화통일가정연합. 1999. Wŏlli kangnon 원리강론 [Exposition of the Principle]. Sŏul 서울: Sŏnghwa ch’ulp’ansa 성화출판사. First published 1966. [Google Scholar]
  28. Segye P’yŏnghwa T’ongil Kajŏng Yŏnhap 세계평화통일가정연합. 2013. Ch’ŏnsŏnggyŏng: Ch’ŏnilguk kyŏngjŏn 天聖經: 天一國經典 [Heavenly Scripture: The Scripture of Cheon Il Guk]. Sŏul 서울: Sŏnghwa ch’ulp’ansa 성화출판사. [Google Scholar]
  29. Segye P’yŏnghwa T’ongil Kajŏng Yŏnhap 세계평화통일가정연합. 2015. Ch’am pumogyŏng: Ch’ŏnilguk kyŏngjŏn 참父母經: 天一國經典 [True Parents Scripture: The Scripture of Cheon Il Guk]. Sŏul 서울: Sŏnghwa ch’ulp’ansa 성화출판사. [Google Scholar]
  30. Selig, William P. 2013. True Family and the Seonghwa Tradition: For Members of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, Self-published.
  31. Selig, William P. 2014. Guide to the Seonghwa Ceremony: The Third Stage of Life. Based on the Teachings of Sun Myung Moon. For Citizens of Cheon Il Guk, Self-published.
  32. Sin Han’guk Kajŏng Yŏnhap Kajŏngguk 신한국가정연합가정국. 2020. Hyŏphoe Sŏnghwasik chinhaeng maenyuŏl (v1) 협회 성화식 진행 매뉴얼 (v1) [Association Seonghwa Ceremony Proceeding Manual].
  33. Wilson, Andrew. 2003. Research into the Ontology of Spirit World and Spirit Persons in Unification Thought. Journal of Unification Studies 5: 145–74. [Google Scholar]
  34. Yang, Ch’ang-su 양창수. 2007. T’ongilgyo sŭnghwasig’e taehan yŏn’gu 통일교 승화식 (昇華式)에 대한 연구 [A Study on the Sŭnghwa Ceremony of the Unification Church]. Master’s thesis, Sŏnmun taehakkyo 선문대학교 [Sun Moon University], Asan, Korea. [Google Scholar]
  35. Yang, P’yŏn-sŭng 양편승. 2007. Sangjang ŭirye chŏlch’a’e taehan pigyo yŏngu: T’ongilgyo sangjang ŭirye’rŭl chungsim’ŭro 상장의례 절차에 대한 비교연구: 통일교 상장의례를 중심으로 [A Comparative Study of Funeral Rite Procedures: Centring on the Funeral Rite of the Unification Church]. Sinjonggyo yŏn’gu 신종교연구 [New Religion Studies] 17: 138–71. [Google Scholar]
  36. Yang, P’yŏn-sŭng 양편승. 2010. T’ongilgyo’ŭi saensagwan’gwa chug’ŭm ŭirye 통일교의 생사관과 죽음의례 [The Unification Church’s View on Life and Death and Death Rites]. Sinjonggyo yŏn’gu 신종교연구 [New Religion Studies] 23: 91–114. [Google Scholar]
  37. Yi, Sang-hŏn 이상헌. 1995. T’ongil sasang yŏnggyeron 통일사상 영계론 [Theory of the Spiritual World in Unification Thought]. T’ongil sasang 통일사상 [Unification Thought] 33: 28–36. [Google Scholar]
“죽음이란 단어는 신성한 말입니다. 슬픔과 고통의 대명사가 아닙니다. […] 지상계의 삶을 꽃피우고 열매 맺어 알곡을 품고 환희와 승리의 세계로 들어가는 때가 영계 입문의 순간입니다. 기뻐해야 할 순간입니다. 마음껏 축하하고 전송해 주어야 할 때입니다. 슬픔의 눈물이 아닌 기쁨의 눈물을 흘리고, 흘려주어야 할 때입니다. 승화식이란 이처럼 성스럽고 숭고한 의식입니다. 하나님의 품으로 돌아가 모시고 영생을 즐기러 가는 첫걸음이기 때문입니다. 새색시가 시집가는 그 순간보다도 더 가슴 떨리고 흥분해야 할 때인 것입니다.” See CSG 13.4.13: 1445 with a slightly adjusted wording. All translations from Korean are mine.
The romanisation of Korean follows the McCune-Reischauer system. Names are written according to the East Asian custom: family name precedes personal name. The romanisation of Japanese follows the Modified Hepburn System. For the conventional emic rendering of Korean names, see the Glossary of Korean Names at the end of the paper.
Officially founded in 1954 in Seoul, the Unification Movement quickly rose to become a key new religious actor in East Asia and, subsequently, worldwide, with presently some 300,000 members involved in its religious core organisation, the Heavenly Parent’s Holy Community (Hanŭl Pumonim Sŏnghoe 하늘부모님성회). The change of name was proclaimed on 8 May 2020, by Mun’s widowed wife, Han Hak-cha한학자/韓鶴子 (b. 1943), who currently heads the Unification Movement. It replaces the designation Heavenly Parent Church (Hanŭl Pumonim Kyodan 하늘부모님교단), which was introduced only one month earlier on 1 April, 2020, as a replacement for Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU; Segye P’yŏnghwa T’ongil Kajŏng Yŏnhap 세계평화통일가정연합/世界平和統一家庭聯合; previously the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity—Segye Kidokkyo T’ongil Sillyŏng Hyŏphoe 세계기독교통일신령협회/世界基督敎統一神靈協會; HSAUWC).
Suffice it to say that Mun’s death gave way to new theological avenues centring on Han (see Pokorny 2017a, pp. 227–29).
Cheon Il Guk is an abbreviation for Kingdom of Cosmic Peace and Unity (ch’ŏnju p’yŏnghwa t’ongilguk 천주평화통일국/天宙平和統一國). The term was devised by Mun in 2001 and has a polyvalent usage in Unificationism.
Mun “disclosed” the archangel’s actual name to be “Nusiel,” a name almost exclusively used in the Korean Unificationist oeuvre as well as by a few Unificationist offshoots. In order to avoid confusion, “Nusiel” is usually given as “Lucifer” in Western Unificationist writings.
In English-language Unificationist writings, yŏnggye is conventionally rendered as “spirit world.”
Of course, there have been many other individuals, who were serving the Unificationist community as “experts” of the spiritual world well before, such as, notably, Mun and Han’s ob-gyn Kim Sin-uk 김신욱/金信旭 (1914–2004) and the early chief Unificationist theologian Kim Yŏng-un 김영운/金永雲 (1914–1989). Yet, they either did not publish or were less systematic and detailed in their accounts.
The writings of the influential Unificationist theologian Andrew Wilson (b. 1950) have been a further popularising momentum for Yi’s “insights” among Western members in particular. Notably, in Chapter 5 of his seminal True Family Values authored alongside Joong Hyun Park (Pak Chung-hyŏn 박중현/朴重昡), Yi’s scheme of the spiritual world is briefly delineated (Pak and Wilson 2006, pp. 185–218; also see Wilson 2003). Regarding Yi’s descriptions, some Unificationist scholars argue that they are merely approximations, for the spiritual world is unfathomable to human cognition (Mun 2016, p. 293).
From the mid-1980s, mediumism has become an increasingly vital element of Unificationism enjoying its heydays in the late 1990s and 2000s. A few years into the post-Mun era, with the ousting of the two chief Unificationist mediums—Kim Yŏng-sun 김영순/金英順and Kim Hyo-nam 김효남/金孝南 (b. 1952)—official mediumistic activities came largely to a halt. Kim Yŏng-sun channelled Yi Sang-hŏn in particular between 1997 and 2003. Kim Hyo-nam communicated the messages of Hong Sun-ae between 1995 and 2015.
Some spirits may dwell an additional time in the physical world out of ignorance of their earthly shell’s passing. It is these confused spirits who are ordinarily referred to as “ghosts.”
The following outline draws on the “canonical” Korean understanding. As I have shown elsewhere (Pokorny 2014), Unification thought is a vast repository of ideas encompassing great individual diversity at the grassroots level. A re-appropriation of canonical ideas is especially noticeable among Western Unificationists.
Notably, in January 1971, the spirit of Jesus was blessed by True Parents to a female member, as were, among others, the spirits of Buddha, Confucius, and Muhammad in June 1998. Yet, their relocation to the Principled Realm is still denied. In late 2008, a mediumistically received message by the spirit of Mun and Han’s first son, Mun Hyo-jin 문효진/文孝進 “Stephen” (1962–2008), circulating among American members, claimed that Jesus was eventually able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven in Heaven. This message was not authenticated by the Unificationist leadership.
Presently, Unificationist “holy days” conventionally follow the lunar calendar. Until recent years, True God’s Day was held in accordance with the solar calendar.
“흥진군은 아들격 아벨인데 […] 사탄주관권을 탕감한 승리기반 위에 직접주관권과 하나된 자리에서 영계에 갔다는 거예요. 그렇기 때문에 타락 이후 천상세계에 간 아들로서 첫째로 비로소 완성한 자격을 갖추고 갔다는 조건을 지니고 있다는 것입니다. […] 그건 지금 영계에 가 있는 영인들앞에, 지금까지 예수 앞에도 그렇고, 모든 선한 성자들 앞에도 그렇고, 심정권을 중심삼고 누가 장자로 먼저 태어났느냐 하면 흥진이가 먼저 태어났다그 말이라구요. […] 사탄은 상속을 안 해주고 자기가 겁탈하는데, 장자권 흥진이는 지상에 가진 복을 전부 다 넘겨 준다 이거예요.”
To fix a soteriological desideratum, since—like Jesus—Mun Hŭng-jin himself could not erect the Four Position Foundation, a posthumous blessing was executed forty days after the samuje삼우제/三虞祭 (i.e., a traditional Korean post-burial ritual commonly taking place on the third day after the interment) on February 20. Hŭng-jin was blessed with the daughter of the church elder Pak Po-hŭi, Mun Hun-suk 문훈숙/文薫淑 “Julia” (b. 1963), who, to this day, enjoys a special status in the Unification Movement. Accordingly, she became one of the thirteen members of the Cheon Il Guk Supreme Council in 2014, the supreme legislative organ of Unificationism in the age of Substantial Cheon Il Guk (Pokorny 2014, p. 142; Pokorny and Zoehrer 2018, pp. 247–52).
Starting only three weeks after his death, the first of several Unificationists worldwide—the British adherent Faith Jones (b. 1945)—asserted to have established mediumistic contact with Mun Hŭng-jin. The most notorious case occurred in 1987–1988, when a Zimbabwean member—Cleophas Kundiona—was for a short time authenticated by Mun as a bodily vessel for the spirit of Hŭng-jin. Nicknamed “Black Heung Jin” by the media, Kundiona conducted revivals in various countries but was eventually ousted due to his increasingly erratic and violent behaviour (see Beverley 2005, pp. 48–49), involving the assault on Pak Po-hŭi who was hospitalised in serious condition.
“사랑의 메시아로서 영계의 문을 연 사람이라구요.”
Until 2010 according to the solar calendar, thereafter following the lunar calendar.
Internationally, Unificationists when not employing the Korean expression generally used the term “ascension.” This did not change after the rebranding in 2011.
Occasionally, the synonymous sŏnghwa yesik 성화예식/聖和禮式 is used in Korean.
Emically, the term is occasionally rendered as “heavenly harmony.”
This category includes important Unificationists, such as Hong Sun-ae.
This category is reserved for the children of True Parents as well as certain chief Unificationist dignitaries, such as Mun Hŭng-jin, Mun Yŏng-jin 문영진/文榮進 “Phillip” (1978–1999; Mun and Han’s sixth son), Mun Hyo-jin, and, more recently, Pak Po-hŭi and Yi Yo-han 이요한/李耀翰 (1916–2019), the latter being one of the earliest followers joining Mun (1952) even prior to the establishment of the HSAUWC and holding multiple offices during his career.
Specifically among Western Unificationists, the Seongwha Ceremony has been appropriated, among others, by discarding some decidedly “East Asian features,” such as the traditional washing and clothing of the dead body (yŏmsŭp 염습/殮襲), food sacrifice, the preparation of a myŏngjŏng 명정/銘旌 etc. (see below).
While cremation was discouraged (see, e.g., Kwak 1997, p. 133) for decades (although it was frequently practiced, specifically in Japan), Han put an end to the official recommendation against it in 2013. In the case of cremations, the ceremonial procedure has to be adjusted accordingly.
Traditional Korean funerary and mourning customs largely evolved against a neo-Confucian backdrop. The contemporary practice chiefly draws on a “Confucian-Christian interplay” (see Park 2010).
Traditionally, a wooden board with seven holes signifying the Big Dipper. For the Wonjeon Ceremony, Unificationists use a septempartite board (without holes).
Otherwise, the funeral hall might be relocated to one’s home, a funeral parlour, or a Unificationist premise.
In April 2016, for the age of Cheon Il Guk, Han consecrated the four traditional Unificationist sacred items—Holy Wine (sŏngju 성주/聖酒); Holy Salt (sŏngyŏm 성염/聖鹽); Holy Candle (sŏngch’o 성초); Holy Earth (sŏngt’o 성토/聖土). To signify this supreme benediction, “Cheon Il Guk” was added to their names.
The Cheon Il Guk timeline commenced on 1 January 2013 (according to the lunar calendar) as the first day of the first month of year 1.
For the Unificationist Blessing Ceremony, see Pokorny (2018a).
Formerly (but still presently seen internationally), it was deemed a requirement that men wear a white boutonnière and women a red corsage. These days, participants sometimes wear small ribbons pinned to their chest inscribed with sŏnghwa. Moreover, in smaller scale settings, the dress code is, at times, matched with conventional funeral attire (e.g., dark suits and black ties for men and dark coloured clothes for women).
Literally meaning “one hundred million times ten thousand years,” the exclamation ŏngmanse serves Unificationists as a multi-purpose jubilant shout meant to signal utmost joy, love, gratitude, and determination.
The forty-day period is deemed particularly important because upon entering the spiritual world the spirit of the deceased is thought to spend up to forty days before s/he settles.
Most of the individuals culled for the 2010 events were affiliated with the United Nations (UN)-accredited Universal Peace Federation (UPF; Ch’ŏnju p’yŏnghwa yŏnhap 천주평화연합/天宙平和聯合), the Unification Movement’s flagship organisation in the diplomatic arena founded in 2005.
It was repeated in quick succession in the United States—on 1 April (Sheraton National Hotel in Arlington); 2 April (Manhattan Center in New York); 3 April (Paris Hotel in Las Vegas); and 9 April (Waikiki Beach Marriot Resort and Spa in Honolulu)—and, following South Korea, from May, without Mun and Han being in attendance, in a number of others countries worldwide. In the Las Vegas ceremony another individual was added, namely an alleged great local “peace worker”—Reiko Kawasaki—supposedly being a descendant of Tokugawa Ieyasu 徳川家康 (1543–1616).
According to Mun, it was Haig’s military intervention in Hŭngnam 흥남/興南 during the Korean War in late 1950, that allowed him to escape the Hŭngnam labour camp. Haig therefore saved his life so that Mun could carry on with his divinely assigned mission.
Following Mun’s passing, the label “Seonghwa Festival” (sŏnghwa ch’ukche 성화축제/聖和祝祭) is reserved for his anniversary-of-death celebrations.
Later, the Seunghwa Blessing was as well issued to the forty-six drowned crew members of the Ch’ŏnan.
“이처럼 귀한 영생으로의 문을 열어주기 위해, 본인은 지난 3월 18일 뉴욕의 UN본부에서 최근에 영면한 세계적 평화 지도자들에게 승화식을 베풀어 주었습니다.”
More recently taking also expression, for example, in the form of a specialised private Unificationist funeral parlour (see, that is, Sŏnghwawŏn 성화원/聖和苑 (Seonghwa Garden), an undertaker business launched in 2016.
Prior to the introduction of specifically assigned burial areas, interments were conducted in ordinary burial sites/public cemeteries with the respective plots being consecrated (i.e., holy salted etc.). This, of course, applies to this day for burials not taking place in Wonjeons.
The land was donated to the Unification Movement in the 1960s. Interments at the P’aju Wonjeon—divided into four burial sections—are (upon permission) reserved for family members of Mun and Han (notably including Mun’s son, Mun Hŭi-jin 문희진/(文喜進 [1954–1969] who was born out of wedlock, and whose remains were disinterred and transferred to the P’aju Wonjeon); relatives; church elders; and important adherents of high social standing. Mun and Han’s gravesite is the Garden of the Original Homeland (ponhyangwŏn), which is adjacent to the Unification Movement’s chief sacred site, the Ch’ŏnjŏnggung 천정궁/天正宮 (Palace of Heavenly Righteousness) in Songsan 송산/松山 Village, Kyŏnggi Province.
Other major international Wonjeons include, among others, the Oze reien 尾瀬霊園 in Katashina 片品, Gunma Prefecture, established in 1983. This is the chief Japanese Wonjeon, which is also the venue of the annual All Japan Seonghwa Festival (Zen’nihon seiwa shukusai 全日本聖和祝祭) (see And the National Wonjeon Shrine at the Fort Lincoln Funeral Home and Cemetery in Brentwood, Maryland, which formally opened in 2003 (see
Back to TopTop