If you’ve been around long enough to remember the “Moonies,” the cult Sun Myung Moon operated in the 1970s that damaged and even destroyed the lives of thousands of young Americans — or if you are familiar with the Washington Times, a daily Republican-Party propaganda sheet he founded that is still in business today — then you’re likely to agree that it’s too bad there’s no such thing as hell, because if there were, this evil self-proclaimed messiah would be frying right now:
The Rev Sun Myung Moon, the self-proclaimed messiah who turned his Unification Church into a worldwide religious movement and gained fame and notoriety in equal measure for his mass weddings, has died.
The 92-year-old famously befriended North Korean leaders as well as U.S. presidents.
He died on Monday at a church-owned hospital near his home in Gapyeong, north-east of Seoul, according to church officials.
His death came just two weeks after being hospitalised with pneumonia, Unification Church spokesman Ahn Ho-yeul said.
Moon’s wife and children were believed to have been at his side.
His youngest son, the Rev. Hyung-jin Moon, was named the church’s top religious director in April 2008 and will now lead the movement.
Moon, who was born in a town that is now in North Korea, founded his religious movement in Seoul in 1954 after surviving the Korean War.
He preached new interpretations of lessons from the Bible and made headlines in the 1970s and 1980s for holding mass weddings of thousands of followers.
The ceremonies often included couples from different countries, whom Moon matched up in a bid to build a multicultural religious world.
The church was accused of using devious recruitment tactics and duping followers out of money, while parents of followers in the U.S. in particular expressed worries that their children were brainwashed into joining.
The church responded by saying that many other new religious movements faced similar accusations in their early stages.
In later years, the church adopted a lower profile and focused on building a business empire that included the Washington Times newspaper, the New Yorker Hotel in Manhattan, Bridgeport University in Connecticut, as well as a hotel and a fledgling car manufacturer in North Korea.
It acquired a ski resort, a professional soccer team and other businesses in South Korea, and a seafood distribution firm that supplies sushi to Japanese restaurants across the U.S.
These, and other, lucrative ventures are at the heart of Hyung Jin Moon’s takeover of the church’s leadership.
- Section: News & Comment