GAPYEONG, South Korea (Reuters) - Sun Myung Moon, a self-proclaimed messiah who founded the Unification Church that once boasted millions of members, was buried at a church-owned mansion modelled on the White House on Saturday after a two-week mourning period.
Tens of thousands of followers gathered at Gapyeong, an hour outside the capital Seoul, to say a final goodbye to Moon, a man who dubbed himself the “True Parent” of those he married in mass ceremonies and who once proposed himself as “supreme chairman” of a reunited Korea.
Moon, a staunch anti-communist who ran a business empire as well as a church and spent 30 years living in the United States, was born in what is now North Korea in 1920 and escaped to the South in 1950 after being sentenced to hard labor.
He died aged 92 on September 3 of complications due to pneumonia. The church he founded is now run by his youngest son, while the business entities are run by another son.
His wife remains the symbolic head of the mission that oversees the entire Tongil, Korean for “Unification”, group.
The church claimed that about 35,000 followers and mourners with some 15,000 from abroad attended the funeral service, which was officially titled “Sun Myung Moon, the True Parent of Heaven and Earth, Memorial and Ascension Ceremony”.
Men dressed in black suits with white ties and women in white or ivory dresses for the ceremony. Many sobbed quietly as the cortege carried Moon’s red-and-gold casket to the altar inside a vast hall in the church complex.
Many others watched on live broadcasts around the campus.
Critics for years have vilified the church as a heretical and dangerous cult and questioned its murky finances and how it indoctrinates followers, described in derogatory terms as “Moonies”.
Moon is survived by his wife and 10 of their 13 children. But his eldest son Hyun Jin, the chairman of UCI, which owns the UPI news agency, did not attend the funeral. Church officials did not give details about why he was not there.
Additional reporting by Sung-won Shim; Editing by David Chance