'Moonies' founder Sun Myung Moon dies at 92
- 3 September 2012
- From the section Asia
Self-styled messiah Sun Myung Moon, whose Unification Church became famous for marrying thousands of people in a single ceremony, has died, aged 92.
Moon set up the Church, whose members are often called Moonies, in the 1950s in the South Korean capital, Seoul.
He claimed to have millions of members, many in the US, but was accused of brainwashing and profiteering.
Moon built up a global business empire, setting up newspapers, arms factories, universities and food distributors.
Moon died early on Monday at a hospital near his home in Gapyeong, north-east of Seoul, where the headquarters of his church is located.
He had been admitted to the hospital, which is owned by the Church, two weeks ago suffering from pneumonia.
The Church will hold a 13-day mourning period before his funeral on 15 September. Moon will be buried at Cheonseung Mountain, near his home.
"He was our father and God's messiah. His body was custom-made by God so we believed he would live until 100," his aide Bo Hi Pak told journalists.
Moon's youngest son, Hyung-jin Moon, became the Church's most senior leader in 2008.
Moon was born in 1920 in Pyongan province, in what is now North Korea.
He claimed that, while he was praying at the age of 15, Jesus appeared to him and asked him to set up God's kingdom on Earth.
Moon said he refused twice, but accepted on the third request.
He was later thrown out of the Presbyterian Church and also jailed by the Communists before he fled to the South.
He established the Church - formally known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification - in 1954, a year after the Korean War ended.
It was known for mass weddings, in which thousands of couples - many who did not know each other but had been paired up by the Church - got married in huge stadium-based ceremonies.
But the Church drew controversy in the 1960s and 70s, often being accused of brainwashing members, breaking up families and lining Moon's pockets.
He denied the allegations, but had to spend 11 months in jail in the US - where he moved in the early 1970s - after being convicted of tax evasion in 1982.
He owned large and lavish properties in the US, founded the Washington Times newspaper and ran numerous businesses across the world in South Korea.
He also forged ties with North Korea, meeting founder Kim Il-sung in 1991 and sending a delegation to pay respects after the death of Kim Jong-il.
But Moon continued to be dogged by controversy. In 2003 he provoked outrage when he used a sermon to condone the Holocaust, claiming that it was the Jews' payment for killing Jesus.
He returned to South Korea in 2006, leaving his religious and business empire in the hands of some of his 14 children.
But he was active as recently as March 2012, leading a mass wedding for some 2,500 followers.