Rev. Moon Marries 20,000 People

The Associated Press, February 13, 2000
By Kyong-Hwa Seok

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - For most brides, a wedding without a bridegroom would be difficult to imagine. But Lee Hwa-shin said she couldn't be happier, even though she and her future husband were married without ever having met.

Lee was among 10,000 couples who tied the knot Sunday in a mass wedding organized by the Unification Church of Rev. Sun Myung Moon. The vast majority of the newlyweds were complete strangers matched by church officials.

``I am very happy although my husband is not here,'' said Lee, a 20-year-old South Korean design student, as she shivered in cold weather at Seoul's Olympic Stadium.

She held a framed picture of her new husband, Tokumasa Yamashita, in a black suit. She said Yamashita, a 20-year-old Japanese man studying computer engineering in the United States, couldn't get a visa in time to attend. At the end of the ceremony, Lee took out a golden ring and slipped it on herself.

``I have no regrets, because I know I am doing the right thing,'' said Lee, who wore a white wedding gown.

Church officials said Moon and some elder church officials appointed by him paired the couples by examining their photographs.

``We want to allow God to choose (the spouses),'' church spokesman Robin Marsh said. ``In our wedding, we build, we develop our love for each other.''

About 40,000 married church members also attended the ceremony to renew their vows. Church officials said ``hundreds of thousands'' of others renewed their vows while watching the ceremony through the Internet and a satellite broadcast.

Church officials said those who attended Sunday's ceremony included people from 150 countries, including the United States, Russia, England, France, Germany, Japan and Italy.

It was the 16th mass wedding organized by the Unification Church.

``I feel very good. This is really great for me and my wife and my future,'' said Aistis Vaicekauskas, 26, a law student from Lithuania who said he met his bride, 21-year old Natasha Buzuk of Belarus, only a week ago.

The 1 1/2-hour-long wedding began with the couples saluting the Korean national flag, a gesture meant to express respect for South Korea, the church's birthplace.

Holy water was sprinkled, wedding vows were repeated, and the familiar phrase ``I do'' echoed across the stadium. Foreign couples read English instructions flashed on a huge electronic screen.

The event ended with the couples shouting ``Hurrah'' three times amid gun salutes and fireworks.

Church officials said some couples from reclusive communist North Korea took part in the wedding by sending their photos to China, where a small ceremony was held. Officials refused to disclose details, saying that to do so could endanger the couples.

The Unification Church claims 4.5 million members worldwide. Its followers are mainly from South Korea, Japan and the United States.

Its doctrines are a mixture of Christian, Confucian and traditional Korean values. Followers believe the church's leader, Moon, came to the world to complete the work of Jesus Christ.

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