Members of South Korea’s Unification Church are in mourning following the death of Church leader Sun Myung Moon at the age of 92.
Moon claimed he had been called upon by Jesus Christ at a young age. He founded the religious organisation based on the Christian faith in 1954, after spending two years in a North Korean prison and eventually escaping.
The Church’s followers, sometimes referred to as ‘Moonies’, take part in mass weddings known as ‘blessing ceremonies’. One of the largest held was for 30,000 couples at Seoul’s Olympic Stadium in 1992. Moon often matched the bride and groom himself.
In early years, the movement was seen as a cult. It has been accused of brainwashing followers and murky financial dealings.
The Church claims to have around three million members.
“Reverend Moon’s death is more heartbreaking than losing my own parents. Losing my parents caused me to suffer a huge pain, which was beyond description, but I felt more sorrow when he [Moon] passed away,” said Unification Church member Lee Sang-bo.
Chief public relations officer for the Church Ahn Ho-yuel said: “Our church’s followers across the world will pray and give financial and emotional support so that God’s will can spread throughout this land and world peace can be fulfilled.”
The Unification Church has also amassed millions of euros, making it rich enough to build a business empire which includes the Washington Times, a ski resort, a South Korean football team and a car plant in North Korea.
Moon’s funeral will be on September 15,
after which he will be buried at the Church’s retreat about an hour outside of South Korea’s capital Seoul.