Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Wild Career

When the Reverend Sun Myung Moon died in September, at age 92, obituaries described a man who'd inspired zealous devotion and condemnation—a summation that Moon never shied away from. "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." Here's a look at his wild career.

Moon giving a public speech in Las Vegas.     Photo: Everyguy/Wikimedia Commons

1935: Moon, the son of Presbyterian farmers in South Korea, is 15 when he claims a miraculous experience: Christ visited him on a mountainside and asked him to establish God's kingdom on Earth.

1950: After three years of forced labor in a North Korean prison camp, Moon is liberated by United Nations forces. The experience will fuel a lifelong crusade against Communism.

1954: Establishes the Unification Church in Seoul. Within a year, 30 churches spring up around the country.

1958: Missionaries are sent to Japan and the United States.

1963: Founds the Tongil Group, a South Korean manufacturing conglomerate. Moon's business holdings will expand to include pharmaceuticals, herbal teas, ships, sushi, guns, publishing, and automobiles. The church will repeatedly deny charges that its commercial empire is underwritten by cult followers who turn over their assets and work for free.

1972: Moon bases his operations in the United States, with headquarters in New York. He begins holding mass rallies in places like Yankee Stadium.

1976: Time magazine quotes Moon saying, "I will conquer and subjugate the world." Dismisses acusations that he brainwashes followers as "nonsense."

1981: Finances Inchon, an epic $42 million box-office flop about the Korean War starring Laurence Olivier as General Douglas MacArthur.

1982: Marries 2,075 couples at a mass ceremony in Madison Square Garden; launches the conservative daily newspaper the Washington Times.

1983: Begins serving an 18-month sentence in federal prison for income-tax evasion. (He's released five months early for good behavior.)

1999: Moon's followers break ground on Puerto Leda, Paraguay.

2004: Tells members of Congress that Joseph Stalin and Adolph Hitler have accepted his teachings in the spirit world and have "mended their ways."

2012: Dies in South Korea from pneumonia complications. The future of the church is in the hands of Moon's 10 surviving children, who are fighting for control.

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