Bo Hi Pak, founding chairman of The Washington Times, dies at age 89
SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Bo Hi Pak, the founding chairman of The Washington Times Corp., who brought the flagship newspaper into existence in 1982 and who spent much of his life engaged in global diplomacy and peacemaking activities with Times’ founders the Rev. Sun Myung Moon and Hak Ja Han Moon, died in Korea Jan. 12. He was 89.
Lt. Col. Pak was the English translator for Rev. Moon. He was at the evangelist’s side at his large public speeches in the United States as well as many of the countless meetings Rev. Moon held with Unification Church members, leaders and guests.
In Washington, Lt. Col. Pak was known first for his diplomatic work as a military attach with the Korean Embassy. Later, he became known for his leadership of cultural organizations and media companies. He established The Washington Times in less than a year at the behest of Rev. and Mrs. Moon, who feared for the United States’ future if liberal-leaning media were allowed to dominate Washington.
“Although I am not a trained newspaperman myself, if there is one thing I learned in the 10 years I spent as president of The Washington Times Corp., it is this one ironclad rule: ‘The social trust is something you have to earn for yourself. No one can just hand it to you,’” Lt. Col. wrote in the second volume of his autobiography, “Messiah: My Testimony to Rev. Sun Myung Moon,” published in 2002.
Bo Hi Pak was born on Aug. 18, 1930, in Chung Nam Province, 100 miles south of Seoul, South Korea, as one of four children of Dong Hyun Pak and Pyung Chun Han.
On June 1, 1950, he entered the Korean Military Academy, and when the Korean War broke out three weeks later, he entered combat as a cadet. In May 1951, as a platoon leader, he and hundreds of men were ambushed and nearly annihilated by Chinese forces during a river crossing. “God! God! If you let me live, I will live the remainder of my life for you,” he recalled in the first volume of his autobiography, published in 2000. Moments after he made that pledge, U.S. fighter-bombers arrived and took out the Chinese shooters. Uninjured, he was able to gather three wounded men from the river and bring them through enemy lines and over a mountain to safety. “From that point on, I began to search for the meaning behind God’s allowing me to survive certain death,” he wrote.
In 1952, he was chosen to attend military training classes in the U.S. and Korea and honed his English and diplomatic skills well enough to serve as an assistant military attach with the Korean Embassy in Washington. He eventually was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel.
He met Rev. Moon on Feb. 17, 1958, at a service at the Seoul headquarters of the Unification Church. That day marked “the birthday of my soul,” he wrote.
For the next 60 years, he served as Rev. Moon’s special assistant and translator while leading numerous organizations, such as the Little Angels Children’s Folk Ballet of Korea; Korean Cultural and Freedom Foundation Inc. and Universal Ballet Foundation. He also helmed the anti-communist CAUSA International educational program, which was taught around the world and “hastened the downfall of international communism,” Lt. Col. Pak wrote in his second volume of “Messiah,” published in 2002.
His most prominent leadership was in media. In the 1970s, he held top leadership positions for the News World newspaper in New York City (which later became The New York City Tribune), the Spanish-language daily Noticias del Mundo, and later, the Segye Ilbo daily newspaper in Seoul. He also led the World Media Association, which hosted global fact-finding tours and conferences on good journalism, and promoted freedom of the press in places where it did not exist and a responsible, moral press in places where it did.
One of the highlights of Lt. Col. Pak’s media career was to make sure the News World ran a banner headline, “News World Prediction: Reagan Landslide,” on Election Day, Nov. 4, 1980. The dramatic wording personally requested by Rev. Moon was so contrary to the rest of the media (who said the 1980 race between California Gov. Ronald Reagan and President Jimmy Carter was too close to call) that he had to rally News World editors to print it. The News World was the only newspaper to make such a bold prediction.
On Election Day, a News World staff member got a copy of the paper to Mr. Reagan, who held it up to news photographers. Wire services carried the photo and by the end of the day, Mr. Reagan was indeed the president-elect, winning 489 of the 538 votes in the Electoral College. The “inside story” about how Mr. Reagan was elected was “another reason why I had to write my autobiography,” Lt. Col. Pak wrote. “Apart from me, no one else knows. It has been a secret kept by Heaven. In this way, we created a miracle, and the glory of God was manifest.”
In 1981, The Washington Star folded, leaving The Washington Post as the primary media voice in the nation’s capital. As chronicled in The Times’ publication, “Beating the Odds,” about its first year, Lt. Col. Pak, after discussions with Rev. and Mrs. Moon, began the groundwork to create from scratch a competitive, conservative daily to challenge the Post and other liberal media.
On Jan. 1, 1982, Rev. and Mrs. Moon announced that Washington must have a “victory over communism newspaper” and asked that The Washington Times publish its first edition on March 1 less than two months later.
Lt. Col. Pak, the Times’ president, and his team of Unificationists and their professional colleagues, stepped up their efforts to acquire a building, staff, printing press and circulation points. Through their efforts and more than a few breaks the copyright for “The Washington Times” name had only become available in 1982 the first “preview” edition published March 1. The fully functioning daily newspaper, with its large staff including many journalists from the defunct Washington Star, made its formal debut, in color and on all city newsstands, on May 17, 1982.
The newspaper far surpassed outside expectations and played a role in the collapse of communism by the 1990s, Lt. Col. Pak noted in his autobiography.
After that, “the Times’ mission became the realization of a world of moral justice,” he wrote. “This new direction, initiated by Rev. Moon, amounts to a call for the newspaper to become an instrument for the construction of an ethical society by working to erase corruption and unrighteousness in the world. In the Korean way of expressing things, we would say that the paper is called to instigate a moral revolution.”
In addition to many awards for his service, Lt. Col. Pak received an honorary doctorate in humanities from La Plata Catholic University of Argentina in 1984.
He is preceded in death by his wife of 64 years, Ki-sook Yun. He is survived by children Na Kyung (Grace), Jun Sun (Jonathan), Jin Sung (James), Hoon Sook (Julia), Yun Sook (Sunny) and Jin Kyung (Samuel), and many grandchildren.
Lt. Col. Pak’s Unification Church Seonghwa Ceremony was held Jan. 15 in Seoul with dozens of similar ceremonies held simultaneously around the world and interment was held at the Paju Wonjeon Cemetery in ChungPyeong.
This article was prepared by former Washington Times staff member Cheryl Wetzstein, Washington Times Holdings executive Larry Moffitt, Universal Peace Federation executive William Selig and Washington Times columnist and Washington Free Beacon senior editor Bill Gertz.