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Unification Church successor visits N. Korea

07 september 2012, 11:29
0
Unification Church devotees stand in front of a portrait of their leader Sun Myung Moon (back) as they mourn his death. ©AFP
Unification Church devotees stand in front of a portrait of their leader Sun Myung Moon (back) as they mourn his death. ©AFP
The successor to Sun Myung Moon, the deceased founder of the Unification Church, made a surprise visit to North Korea on Friday, AFP reports citing his spokesman.

Hyung Jin Moon, Moon's youngest son and successor as church leader, crossed the border early Friday, spokesman Ahn Ho-Yeol told journalists.

Sun Myung Moon, the self-styled messiah who founded the church famed for its mass weddings and business empire spanning cars to sushi, died Monday at the age of 92 due to complications from pneumonia.

Although a staunch anti-communist, Moon began building a relationship with North Korea in the 1990s, visiting Pyongyang in 1991 to meet with then leader Kim Il-Sung for talks that touched on reunification of the divided peninsula.

His successor Hyung Jin Moon will receive North Korean mourners who will pay their respects in front an altar which was set up in Pyongyang in memory of his late father, spokesman Ahn said.

The unscheduled trip sparked speculation here that North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Un may meet Hyung Jin Moon to convey his condolences in person.

Kim on Wednesday issued a public message of condolence over Moon's death but stopped short of sending mourners to the South.

This was despite the fact that Moon had sent Unification Church delegations -- including some of his family members -- to the funerals of both Kim Il-Sung in 1994 and Kim Jong-Un's father Kim Jong-Il last year.

Hyung Jin Moon was accompanied by Park Sang-Kwon, president of an automaking joint venture the church established in North Korea in 1999.

Park said Thursday that the North's decision to not send mourners was because of lingering anger over a joint US-South Korea military exercise last month and the fact that it was struggling with the fallout from a typhoon.

A strong typhoon hit North Korea last month, killing 48 people and leaving more than 50 injured or missing, according to their own government.

The typhoon came as the impoverished communist state was still grappling with the after-effects of floods in June and July that killed 169 people and left 400 missing.

Official delegations from the two Koreas, who technically remain in a state of war, rarely cross the heavily militarised border.

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