Thousands of couples tied the knot in South Korea Sunday in the first mass wedding organized by the Unification Church since the death of its founder, Sun Myung Moon, in September.
Some 3,500 identically-dressed couples — many of mixed nationality who had met just days before — took part in the ceremony at the church's headquarters in Gapyeong, east of the capital Seoul, AFP reported.
Moon, a self-styled messiah and a media and business mogul, founded the church, regarded by its critics as a dangerous cult, in 1954 in Seoul. Its followers, often called Moonies by outsiders, shared their leader’s strong belief in marriage and anti-Communism.
Moon accumulated massive wealth that included large assets in the U.S. and was convicted of large-scale tax evasion in 1982. He spent 11 months behind bars. Upon his release from prison, he joined with other American churches to campaign for religious freedom. Moon died five months ago, aged 92, of complications from pneumonia. An estimated 30,000 people attended his funeral.
He often paired up people for the Church’s mass weddings. His preference for cross-cultural, international marriages, at times meant that the partners did not share a common language.
Sunday's event was presided over by Moon's 70-year-old widow Hak Ja Han, who picked partners for some 400 of the church's members a few days before at an "engagement ceremony.”
"Yeah, I was pretty nervous," attendee Jin Davidson, a 21-year-old student from the U.S., told AFP.
Davidson, whose Australian father and Japanese mother were matched by Moon, said he did not know Japanese and his Japanese bride, Kotona Shimizu, also 21, spoke “only a little English.”
“But we see it as an exciting challenge and proof of our faith," he told AFP.