Founder of the Unification Church Dies at 92

Posted September 2nd, 2012 at 5:50 pm (UTC-5)
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Sun Myung Moon, the founder of the Unification Church and one of the most prominent Koreans in the world, has died. He was 92.

The Unification Church in South Korea said Sunday that its founder succumbed to complications from pneumonia in a church-run hospital east of Seoul.

Reverend Moon's global business empire is worth billions of dollars, and includes the Washington Times newspaper and the New Yorker Hotel in Manhattan.

The church he set up in 1954 has millions of followers worldwide and is perhaps best-known for mass weddings of followers that Moon himself picked for each other.

The Unification Church has gained a reputation as a cult with deceptive tactics in recruiting followers and maintaining tight control over their lives.

Once a staunch anti-communist, Moon was imprisoned in his native North Korea in the late 1940's. But he later put aside ideology to do business with North Korea's founder Kim Il Sung.

Several of Moon's children have split leadership roles in the church's sprawling empire in recent years. Some of the businesses have struggled amid reports of infighting among the heirs.

A church-affiliated firm, Pyeonghwa Motors, established a joint carmaking business in North Korea in 1999.

In 1982, Moon was convicted of tax fraud in the United States and he spent 13 months in a U.S. federal prison.

Moon's followers, dubbed “Moonies,” believe that marriage is central to the Unification Church's mission of uniting the world's Christian denominations.

Moon presided over the ceremonies wearing a robe and a crown on his head.

The most recent such mass wedding was held in South Korea in March.