Sun Myung Moon Biography

Religious Figure, Business Leader (1920–2012)
Sun Myung Moon was founder and leader of the Unification Church, a religious movement whose followers were labeled "Moonies."


Sun Myung Moon was born in what is now North Korea on February 25, 1920. Preaching Christianity in Communist-backed North Korea, Moon was arrested and imprisoned in 1946. After release, he started his Unification Church. Critics labeled this church a cult and Moon's followers "Moonies." In addition to his religious movement, Moon built a multibillion-dollar business empire and was owner of the Washington Times. He died in 2012.

Religious Leader

Sun Myung Moon was born in a town in what is now North Korea on February 25, 1920, which was recorded as January 6th according to the lunar calendar. His family practiced Confucianist beliefs until they converted to Christianity, joining a Presbyterian Church, when Moon was about 10 years old.

He continued his new faith as a young man, preaching Christianity in Communist-backed North Korea where he was arrested in 1946 and imprisoned by North Korean officials on charges of spying. Moon denied the charges, but served 34 months in prison.

After his imprisonment, he started his religious movement in Seoul, Korea in 1954, blending unorthodox messianic teachings with anti-Communist beliefs and conservative family values. He moved to the United States in 1971 where his movement drew more followers, but also critics who labeled his Unification Church as a cult and his followers "Moonies."

Moon was known for presiding over "blessing ceremonies," mass marriages with thousands in attendance where often couples getting married were meeting for the first time. "People should marry across national and cultural boundaries with people from countries they consider to be their enemies so that the world of peace can come that much more quickly," Moon wrote in his 2009 autobiography.

In addition to Moon's religious movement, he built a multibillion-dollar global business empire. He owned companies ranging from newspapers, including the Washington Times, to hospitals, universities and non-profit organizations. In 1982, his business dealings also drew controversy when he was charged with tax evasion and served a 13-month prison sentence.

In 1996, in hopes of reviving waning church membership, Moon renamed his church the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.


After developing complications from pneumonia, Moon died on September 2, 2012, leaving behind a wife and 10 children. According to, when Moon was interviewed by religion professor Frederick Sontag about what would happen to his church after his death, Moon said, "I will continue to lead the church from the spirit world."

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