The Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the self-proclaimed messiah who turned his Unification Church into a worldwide religious movement and befriended North Korean leaders as well as U.S. presidents, has died, church officials said Monday. He was 92. Moon died Monday at a church-owned hospital near his home in Gapyeong, northeast of Seoul, two weeks after being hospitalized with pneumonia, said a Church spokesman. Moon's wife and children were at his side.
Moon founded his religious movement in Seoul in 1954 after surviving the Korean War. He preached new interpretations of lessons from the Bible. The church gained fame—and notoriety—in the 1970s and 1980s for holding mass weddings of thousands of followers, often from different countries. The Church was also accused of duping followers out of money, and in later years built an international business empire. But Moon, who performed the mass weddings, believed in building a multicultural religious world. "International and intercultural marriages are the quickest way to bring about an ideal world of peace," he said in his autobiography.