Unification Church Founder Rev. Moon Dies at 92
The Rev. Sun Myung Moon was a self-proclaimed messiah who built a global business empire. He called both North Korean leaders and American presidents his friends, but spent time in prisons in both countries. His followers around the world cherished him, while his detractors accused him of brainwashing recruits and extracting money from worshippers.
These contradictions did nothing to stop the founder of the Unification Church from turning his religious vision into a worldwide movement and a multibillion-dollar corporation stretching from the Korean Peninsula to the United States.
Moon died Monday at a church-owned hospital near his home in Gapyeong County, northeast of Seoul, two weeks after being hospitalized with pneumonia, Unification Church spokesman Ahn Ho-yeul told The Associated Press. Moon's wife and children were at his side, Ahn said. He was 92.
The church will hold a 13-day mourning period beginning Monday and start accepting mourners Thursday at a multipurpose gym at its nearby religious center, the church said in a statement. The funeral will be held Sept. 15, and Moon will be buried at nearby Cheonseung Mountain, where his home is located, the statement said.
Moon founded his Bible-based religion in Seoul in 1954, a year after the Korean War ended, saying Jesus Christ personally called on him to complete his work.
Today, the Unification Church has 3 million followers, including 100,000 members in the U.S., and has sent missionaries to 194 countries, Ahn said. But ex-members and critics say the figure is actually no more than 100,000 members worldwide.
The church's holdings include the Washington Times newspaper; the New Yorker Hotel, a midtown Manhattan art deco landmark; and a seafood distribution firm that supplies sushi to Japanese restaurants across the U.S. It gave the University of Bridgeport $110 million over more than a decade to keep the Connecticut school operating.
It acquired a ski resort, a professional football team and other businesses in South Korea. It also operates a foreign-owned luxury hotel in North Korea and jointly operates a fledgling North Korean automaker.
The church has been accused of using devious recruitment tactics and duping followers out of money. Parents of followers in the United States and elsewhere have expressed worries that their children were brainwashed into joining. The church has pointed out that many new religious movements faced similar accusations in their early years. Moon's followers were often called "Moonies," a term many found pejorative.
Moon was born in 1920 in a rural part of what is today North Korea. He said he was 16 when Jesus Christ first appeared to him and told him to finish the work he had begun on Earth 2,000 years earlier. Moon, who tried to preach the gospel in the North, was imprisoned there in the late 1940s for alleged spying for South Korea; he disputed the charge.
When the Korean War broke out in 1950, he went to South Korea. After divorcing his first wife, he married Hak Ja Han Moon in 1960. They have 10 surviving sons and daughters, according to the church.
In South Korea, Moon quickly drew young acolytes to his conservative, family-oriented value system and unusual interpretation of the Bible. He conducted his first mass wedding in Seoul in the early 1960s, and the "blessing ceremonies" grew in scale over the years. A 1982 wedding at New York's Madison Square Garden — the first outside South Korea — drew thousands of participants.
"International and intercultural marriages are the quickest way to bring about an ideal world of peace," Moon said in a 2009 autobiography. "People should marry across national and cultural boundaries with people from countries they consider to be their enemies so that the world of peace can come that much more quickly."
Moon began building a relationship with North Korea in 1991, even meeting with the country's founder, Kim Il Sung, in the eastern North Korean port city of Hamhung. In his autobiography, Moon said he urged Kim to give up his nuclear ambitions, and that Kim responded by saying that his atomic program was for peaceful purposes and he had no intention to use it to "kill my own people."
"The two of us were able to communicate well about our shared hobbies of hunting and fishing," Moon wrote. "At one point, we each felt we had so much to say to the other that we just started talking like old friends meeting after a long separation."
The church also sent a delegation to pay its respects after Kim Jong Il died in December and was succeeded by his son Kim Jong Un.
Moon sought and eventually developed a good relationship with conservative American leaders such as former Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
Yet he also served 13 months at a U.S. federal prison in the mid-1980s after a New York City jury convicted him of filing false tax returns. The church says the U.S. government persecuted Moon because of his growing influence and popularity with young Americans.
One of the more bizarre chapters in Moon's relationship with Washington came in 2004, when more than a dozen U.S. lawmakers attended a "coronation ceremony" for Moon and his wife in which Moon declared himself humanity's savior and said his teachings have helped Hitler and Stalin be "reborn as new persons." Some of the congressmen later said they had been misled and hadn't been aware that Moon would be at the event.
In later years, the church adopted a lower profile in the United States and focused on building up its businesses. Moon lived for more than 30 years in the United States, the church said.
As he grew older, Moon also handed over day-to-day control of his empire to his children, but in 2009 he married 45,000 people in simultaneous ceremonies worldwide in his first large-scale mass wedding in years, the church said. Some were newlyweds and others reaffirmed past vows.
1982年創辦右翼報紙《華盛頓時報》（The Washington Times），對當時的冷戰局勢有關鍵性的影響，間接導致蘇聯瓦解．
美國由於謊報聯邦所得稅回歸的問題，已經被美國人民視為濫用基督教權力的牧師 關於前述「所得稅回歸」問題的事實真相，說明如下：文鮮明到美國定居的第一年，仿照當時美國宗教團體的習慣[來源請求]， 將宗教活動基金以負責人名義存到銀行帳戶，三年後，紐約檢察廳以未申報「利息所得稅」為由起訴文鮮明牧師，當時到德國宣教的文鮮明牧師主動返回美國接受調 查，1984年7月20日文鮮明入獄。文鮮明牧師的入獄，引起美國宗教界的震動，7千多名各宗教的神職人員，發起拯救文鮮明牧師的運動。文鮮明牧師在入獄 13個月後出獄，一千七百餘名猶太教拉比及基督教牧師為文鮮明舉行晚宴祝賀，之後組成美國神職者聯合會，展開超宗教超教派信仰運動與和平運動。