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Self-proclaimed messiah who blew $1 billion on right-wing newspaper dead at 92

Excerpts from the FEATURE OBITUARY in The New York Times:

The Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the Korean evangelist, businessman and self-proclaimed messiah who built a religious movement notable for its mass weddings, fresh-faced proselytizers and links to vast commercial interests, died on Monday in Gapyeong, South Korea. He was 92…

Mr. Moon courted world leaders, financed newspapers and founded numerous innocuously named civic organizations. To his critics, he pursued those activities mainly to lend legitimacy to his movement, known as the Unification Church, although his methods were sometimes questionable. In 2004, for example, he had himself crowned “humanity’s savior” in front of astonished members of Congress at a Capitol Hill luncheon…

Building a business empire in South Korea and Japan, Mr. Moon used his commercial interests to support nonprofit ventures, then kept control of them by placing key insiders within their hierarchies. He avidly backed right-wing causes, turning The Washington Times into a respected newspaper in conservative circles.

An ardent anti-Communist who had been imprisoned by the Communist authorities in northern Korea in the 1940s, he saw the United States as the world’s salvation. But in the late 1990s, after financial losses, defections and stagnant growth in the church’s membership, he turned on America, branding it a repository of immorality — “Satan’s harvest” — and repositioned his movement as a crusade for moral values…

Mr. Moon acknowledged that in the two decades since the founding of The Washington Times in 1982, he pumped in more than $1 billion in subsidies to keep it going.

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