Around 4,000 couples from 64 countries crowded in a hall in Gapyeong, South Korea, while around 20,000 more couples took part in the ceremony via the internet, according to the organisers.

Thousands of 'Moonies' marry at Unification Church mass wedding in South Korea

The couples follow the teachings of Sun Myung Moon, a controversial figure once jailed in the US for tax evasion.

Sky News/September 7, 2017

By Emma Rae

Thousands of couples have tied the knot at a mass wedding to mark five years since the death of the Unification Church's founder, Sun Myung Moon.

The Unification Church, founded by Moon in 1954, is a unique interpretation of Christianity that believes world peace can be attained through the creation of "true families".

Moon was a controversial figure across Asia and the US. Some accuse his organisation of being a cult, questioning its finances as the founder was once jailed in the US for tax evasion.

It is thought that more than half of the couples who attended the event got married and the rest blessed existing unions.

The grooms and brides were seated in rows, some waiting nervously and others taking selfies before giant posters of Moon.

"I feel so nervous," said Davison Zulu, a 20-year-old from Zambia, adding it was a moment he and his bride had waited for for "so long".

When Moon was alive, his followers - dubbed "Moonies" by critics - were often personally matched by him.

He sometimes preferred cross-cultural marriages, arguing that in God's eyes there were no such things as nationality or skin colour and believed that they were a way to promote peace.

This meant couples sometimes shared no common language.

In recent years, social media has made it easier for "Moonie" couples to "connect" before their wedding.

Vanessa, from Singapore, was introduced to her groom Ewald Schenkermayr, a 30-year-old from Austria, by her parents and kept in touch through emails and Skype conversations.

Vanessa said that going through her prospective husband's Facebook page also helped getting to know him better.

"I just know more things about him, that he likes to travel and he likes coffee and heavy metal music."

Tying the knot in the mass wedding "makes everything more memorable and precious because all of us are sharing this precious moment together", she added.

Moon, called True Father by some followers, died in 2012 at the age of 92 after suffering critical organ failure.

Five years later, the church still has a strong following - it claims to have around three million members worldwide.

His widow, Han Hak-ja, dubbed True Mother, and their daughter Sun Jin Moon were at the mass wedding on event.

"We pray that your sun will rise and the light of truth will evaporate all suffering from this earth," his daughter told the event.

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