Early life, education and military service
Born in Geoje, South Korea, during the last year of the Korean War, Moon Jae-in was the second child and oldest son among five children of father Moon Yong-hyung and mother Kang Han-ok. His parents were refugees from South Hamgyeong Province, North Korea, who fled their native city of Hungnam during the Hungnam evacuation.
His family eventually settled in Busan. Since his father did not want to become a government employee, as he had been in North Korea, his father started a business selling socks, which left his family in great debt. His mother became the breadwinner by selling clothes received from relief organisations and delivering briquettes. Moon's family became attached to the Catholic Church when his mother went to the local cathedral to receive whole milk powder. Moon once said in an interview that he didn't know how to ride a bike since his family was too desperately poor to afford a bike or monthly school tuition.
Moon entered Kyungnam High School at the top of his class. He was accepted to study law at Kyung Hee University with a full scholarship. There he met his future wife, Kim Jung-sook. After he organized a student protest against the Yushin Constitution, he was arrested, convicted, imprisoned, and expelled from the university. Later, he was conscripted into the military and assigned to the South Korean special forces, where he participated in "Operation Paul Bunyan" during the Axe murder incident in Panmunjom.
After his discharge, the death of his father influenced him to decide to take the Bar Exam. He went into Daeheungsa, the Buddhist temple, to study for the exam and passed the first of two rounds in 1979. In 1980 he returned to school to complete his remaining year of studies. Later that year, he passed the second round and was admitted to the Judicial Research and Training Institute. He graduated second in his class but was not admitted to become a judge or government prosecutor due to his history of activism against the Yushin dictatorship under Park Chung-hee's rule as a student. Moon chose to go into private practice instead.