King of the Ocean

Lest anyone forget about the strange career of Sun Myung Moon, right-wing nutjub, and king maker, who apparently supplies raw sushi to the majority of the country. Am I going to have to change my diet again?

Despite controversy, Moon and his church moving into mainstream Two decades after serving time in federal prison, Rev. Sun Myung Moon had so effectively worked his way back into the political establishment that some congressmen attended his “coronation” on Capitol Hill.

In an unusual ceremony held in March 2004 in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) donned white gloves and placed a gleaming crown atop Moon's head. Moon informed the group that Hitler and Stalin had, from beyond the grave, proclaimed him “humanity's savior, messiah, returning lord and true parent.”
Inside the church, though, followers saw the coronation as evidence that world leaders were recognizing Moon as a messiah. “Members of the U.S. Congress gathered to crown me as the king of world peace,” he said in a sermon in May of that year. “How can this possibly be a human work?”

The ceremony was another example of Moon's evolution into the American mainstream, including having former President George H.W. Bush speak at the 1996 launch of a Moon-affiliated newspaper in Argentina, news accounts show. In 2005, another Moon-affiliated company donated $250,000 to President George W. Bush's inaugural committee.

and True World Group (mentioned in a recent WSJ article about sushi, excerpted below) is apparently well on its way to taking over the sushi distribution of the entire country.

From the Chicago Tribune:

In a remarkable story that has gone largely untold, Moon and his followers created an enterprise that reaped millions of dollars by dominating one of America's trendiest indulgences: sushi.

Today, one of those five Elston Avenue pioneers, Takeshi Yashiro, serves as a top executive of a sprawling conglomerate that supplies much of the raw fish Americans eat.

Adhering to a plan Moon spelled out more than three decades ago in a series of sermons, members of his movement managed to integrate virtually every facet of the highly competitive seafood industry. The Moon followers' seafood operation is driven by a commercial powerhouse, known as True World Group. It builds fleets of boats, runs dozens of distribution centers and, each day, supplies most of the nation's estimated 9,000 sushi restaurants.

Although few seafood lovers may consider they're indirectly supporting Moon's religious movement, they do just that when they eat a buttery slice of tuna or munch on a morsel of eel in many restaurants. True World is so ubiquitous that 14 of 17 prominent Chicago sushi restaurants surveyed by the Tribune said they were supplied by the company.

Over the last three decades, as Moon has faced down accusations of brainwashing followers and personally profiting from the church, he and sushi have made similar if unlikely journeys from the fringes of American society to the mainstream.

These parallel paths are not coincidence. They reflect Moon's dream of revitalizing and dominating the American fishing industry while helping to fund his church's activities.

“I have the entire system worked out, starting with boat building,” Moon said in “The Way of Tuna,” a speech given in 1980. “After we build the boats, we catch the fish and process them for the market, and then have a distribution network. This is not just on the drawing board; I have already done it.”

In the same speech, he called himself “king of the ocean.” It proved not to be an idle boast. The businesses now employ hundreds, including non-church members, from the frigid waters of the Alaskan coast to the iconic American fishing town of Gloucester, Mass.

Records and interviews with church insiders and competitors trace how Moon and members of his movement carried out his vision.

But links between Moon's religious organization and the fish businesses are spelled out in court and government records as well as in statements by Moon and his top church officials. For one thing, Moon personally devised the seafood strategy, helped fund it at its outset and served as a director of one of its earliest companies.

Moon's Unification Church is organized under a tax-exempt non-profit entity called The Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity. The businesses are controlled by a separate non-profit company called Unification Church International Inc., or UCI.

That company's connections to Moon's Unification Church go deeper than the shared name. A 1978 congressional investigation into Moon's businesses concluded: “It was unclear whether the UCI had any independent functions other than serving as a financial clearinghouse for various Moon organization subsidiaries and projects.”

UCI as well as its subsidiaries and affiliates such as True World are run largely by church members, Schanker said. The companies were “founded by church members in line with Rev. Moon's vision,'' he said. ”It's not coincidence.“

Sometimes the links are more direct. The boatbuilding firm US Marine Corporation shares its headquarters offices with the church and lists the church as its majority shareholder, according to corporate records.

A portion of True World's profits makes its way to the church through the layers of parent corporations, Yashiro said, adding: ”We live to serve others, and this is how we serve by building a strong business.“

Moon predicted in 1974 that the fishing business would ”lay a foundation for the future economy of the Unification Church.“ In fact, while Moon and businesses affiliated with him reportedly have poured millions of dollars into money-losing ventures including The Washington Times newspaper, the seafood ventures have created a profit-making infrastructure that could last-and help support the church-long after the 86-year-old Moon is gone.

Much of the foundation for that success has its roots in Chicago. True World Foods, Yashiro's wholesale fish distribution business spawned near Lawrence and Elston Avenues, now operates from a 30,000-square-foot complex in Elk Grove Village.

The company says it supplies hundreds of local sushi and fine-dining establishments. Even many who might have religious reservations about buying from the company do so for one simple reason: It dependably delivers high-quality sushi.

”We try not to think of the religion part,'' said Haruko Imamura, who with her husband runs Katsu on West Peterson Avenue. “We don't agree with their religion but it's nothing to do with the business.”

plenty more here

From the WSJ

Despite the big price gap, the two restaurants have something in common: They get much of their fish from the same supplier.

Sushi -- one of the fastest-growing segments of the restaurant business -- is now firmly in the mainstream, served everywhere from military canteens to 7-Elevens, and in all 50 states. Even Tony Soprano and his wife, Carmela, ditched the scaloppine for yellowtail in the season opener of “The Sopranos.”

But at a time when other kinds of restaurants are inundating diners with details about where their pork chops spent their youth and what farmer harvested their veggies, sushi is curiously out of step. Even at top-of-the-line establishments, menus rarely say anything about where the fish comes from.

It turns out just a few suppliers stock most of the sushi restaurants in any given city.

50 restaurants and their suppliers (pdf - maybe subscribers only - ask me if you want it)

previous coverage
Danny Davis and Moon

Danny Davis and Moon, Redux

Update 4/13/06
Eric Zorn has a collection of good links re the Sun Moon.

Tags: , /

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Seth A. published on April 12, 2006 8:33 AM.

Jazz weekend was the previous entry in this blog.

Friends and bridges is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.


Powered by Movable Type 4.37