A bride yawns during a mass wedding ceremony in South Korea. Picture: AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon
A bride yawns during a mass wedding ceremony in South Korea. Picture: AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon

Thousands marry in mass ceremony

TWENTY-FIVE years after her parents were married, Iasmin Lumibao travelled from Macau to South Korea to follow in their footsteps and marry alongside thousands of others in a mass wedding.

On Monday, about 1000 couples were married at a ceremony in Gapyeong, northeast of Seoul, while another 3000 couples renewed vows. In all, 64 nationalities were represented in the mass wedding that has come to exemplify the South Korea-based Unification Church.

Ms Lumibao, 23, is a second-generation member of the movement, and said times have changed since her parents married at a mass ceremony in 1992.

Couples from around the world attend a mass wedding ceremony at the CheongShim Peace World Centre in Gapyeong, South Korea. Picture: AP/Ahn Young-joon
Couples from around the world attend a mass wedding ceremony at the CheongShim Peace World Centre in Gapyeong, South Korea. Picture: AP/Ahn Young-joon

 

From the early 1960s until he died in 2012, the church's founder and self-declared messiah, Sun Myung Moon, played matchmaker, pairing couples who had never met and sometimes did not even speak the same language.

Ms Lumibao's parents were complete strangers when Moon, who said he was chosen by Jesus Christ to establish an ideal world of peace and harmony, matched them up.

And Ms Lumibao's new husband, Denthew Learey, 22, from New York, is also a second generation member. His parents are from Germany and Canada, and Moon paired them up in 1992 using only their photographs. They met a few days before the mass wedding in 1992.

But things are different now.

"It used to be that we get blessed (with) strangers but now it's quite different because we get to make the decision by ourselves, we get to know the person and if we want to continue we would take the step and create the future together," Ms Lumibao said.

South Korean and foreign couples exchanged or reaffirmed marriage vows in the Unification Church's mass wedding. Picture: AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon
South Korean and foreign couples exchanged or reaffirmed marriage vows in the Unification Church's mass wedding. Picture: AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon

Ms Lumibao and Mr Learey decided to get married in 2017 after they met at a church program in Austria in 2014.

But they came to the decision by themselves, rather than having their parents or the church decide, which became more common for young people in the church after Moon died in 2012.

The mass wedding was arranged by Hak Ja Han Moon, wife of the late Rev Sun Myung Moon, the controversial founder of the Unification Church. Picture: AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon
The mass wedding was arranged by Hak Ja Han Moon, wife of the late Rev Sun Myung Moon, the controversial founder of the Unification Church. Picture: AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon

Critics have for years vilified the movement as a heretical and dangerous cult and questioned its murky finances and how it indoctrinates followers, known in derogatory terms as "Moonies".

But Ms Lumibao, who said she never considered finding a husband outside the church, said the new generations should continue the marriage traditions.

"I believe that the values and our movement are important. And I think our future generation should inherit that because it's healthy for individuals, the family and the society," she said.

A bride arrives to attend her wedding — but also the wedding of thousands of strangers in Gapyeong, South Korea. Picture: AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon
A bride arrives to attend her wedding — but also the wedding of thousands of strangers in Gapyeong, South Korea. Picture: AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon


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