Sun Myung Moon, Unification Church Leader and Washington Times Founder, Dies

The Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon, the self-proclaimed messiah and founder of the Washington Times, dies at 92

The Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon, the self-proclaimed messiah who founded both the Unification Church and the Washington Times, died early Sunday morning in his native South Korea. He was 92.

Moon was hospitalized weeks ago and died surrounded by friends, family and followers just before 2 a.m. local time — at about 10 a.m. PST — from complications from pneumonia, according to the New York Times.

The church did not immediately respond to requests from TheWrap for comment.

Moon founded a religious movement in South Korea in 1954 that gained traction worldwide, advocating against communists during the Cold War and urging other faiths to join together.

The church also pushes anti-LGBT values and has used the Washington Times, the daily broadsheet newspaper in 1982, to stump for conservatives causes in the capital.

"Words cannot convey my heart at this time," Thomas P. McDevitt, the president of the Times, said in a statement Sunday. "Rev. Sun Myung Moon has long loved America, and he believed in the need for a powerful free press to convey accurate information and moral values to people in a free world. The Washington Times stands as a tangible expression of those values."

He owned various media properties across the world in the U.S., Japan, South Korea, and many African, European and Latin American countries.

Moon started News World Communications in New York in 1976 with two newspapers, the New York City Tribune, which was renamed News World, and the Spanish-language Noticias del Mundo. The company quickly expanded, with leading titles in South Africa, Egypt, Japan and South Korea.

The Times stands as the News World's best known title, founded as the conservative movement gained steam in the early 1980s as a rival to what church members considered the more liberal Washington Post.

Two years ago, Moon and a group of executives at the paper purchased it from News World as it continued to lose money and slash staff.

Moon also financed some films, including the box office bomb "Inchon" about the Battle of Inchon, a turning points in the Korean War. It earned just over $5 million back on its $46 million budget.

Moon was a controversial figure in the U.S. for his touted political leanings and prominent place on the international political stage, meeting with such leaders as North Korean dictator Kim Il-Sung and former Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev.

"I am a controversial person," he wrote in his 2009 autobiography "As a Peace-Loving Global Citizen." "the mere mention of my name causes trouble in the world."

In the 1970s, Moon held evangelistic rallies across the U.S., including at Yankee Stadium and Washington Monument, proclaiming that the country was in "moral decline" and hoping to "reawaken its Puritan spirit."