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Rev. Sun Myung Moon, Founder Of Unification Church, Dies

Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the founder of the Unification Church, has died in South Korea. He was 92.

The Associated Press is reporting that Moon died Monday at a church-owned hospital near his home in Gapyeong, northeast of Seoul. He had been hospitalized two weeks ago with pneumonia. The Washington Times, the newspaper founded by Moon, said he died just before 2 a.m. local time Monday from complications of pneumonia.

NPR's Barbara Bradley Hagerty has reported on Moon's legacy.

Here's what she says:

"Moon began focusing on his central mission: creating families. He presided over mass wedding ceremonies, joining tens of thousands of couples at a time. Moon would often match people who had never met before the ceremony.

Moon was determined to spread his influence beyond religion. He became active in conservative politics. He took out full-page ads defending President Nixon during Watergate. He bought a gun manufacturer. He started universities and founded The Washington Times in 1982."

Moon's Unification Church says it has millions of members worldwide, but as NPR's Hagerty reported in February 2010, no one knows the exact numbers. In the U.S., estimates range from 15,000 to 25,000.

Here's more from that story, which details the church's efforts to woo a second generation of believers:

"The young believers at the marriage workshop wear this history as a badge of honor. Sure, they know some people view their church as a cult, and they bristle at the term 'Moonie.' They know their parents were ostracized — and some deprogrammed — for following their Korean Messiah."

Update at 5:37 p.m.

A message on the Unification Church's Washington, D.C., offices said: "Our founder, the Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon has just transition to the spirit world. We are preparing services for the next few days. We will be contacting members by e-mail."

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Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.
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