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Mass Marriage Held in South Korea

February 7, 1999

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ Shivering in her thin, white wedding dress in freezing winter weather, Japanese bride Yuko Itou lifted her arms high and shouted ``manse,″ meaning hurrah, three times. So did her South Korean groom whom she met only two days ago.

And so did 12,000 other newly wed couples in white dresses and dark suits, with their voices echoing across Seoul’s Chamsil Olympic Stadium. The cheer ended a two-hour wedding arranged by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church.

A church spokesman said the ceremony, in which 30,000 married couples also renewed their vows, was the largest wedding ever.

``My parents married this way. I am very happy to share this happiness with all those people,″ said Itou, 24, a college student from Nagoya, Japan.

She said there was nothing strange about having met her husband, Kim Jong-soo, 28, a math teacher from Seoul, just two days ago.

``You cannot compare our wedding with that by people who choose their spouses by mundane standards. It is the Messiah that chose my bride,″ Kim said. His bride nodded in approval.

Moon paired them by examining their photographs, a method they said could not be explained scientifically.

Itou’s parents, both Japanese, married in a similar wedding arranged by Moon about 30 years ago. Being a lifetime Unification Church member, Itou said she never doubted that she would marry the same way.

About 80 percent of the couples who attended Sunday’s ceremony, dubbed ``Blessing 99,″ were South Koreans. Foreign spouses were from 100 countries, including the United States. All the couples paid to attend the ceremony.

Church officials said an estimated 360 million people in 130 countries watched or renewed their vows via satellite and through Internet link-ups. Some young brides were holding the photos of new husbands who they said could not get off work to attend the ceremony.

The ceremony started with couples saluting the South Korean national flag and ended with shouts of hurrah in Korean. In between, holy water was sprinkled, wedding rings were exchanged and four wedding vows were repeated in the ceremony Moon conducted in Korean.

But language barriers didn’t seem to bother Brunhilde D’alberti, 59, a German-born follower of Moon, who renewed her marital vows with her Italian husband, Edio D’alberti, 63.

``I simply believe in the Rev. Moon,″ she said.

Moon founded his church in 1954 and claims to have millions of members.

Many critics call the church _ and its extensive business operations _ a cult, accusing the leadership of employing devious recruitment tactics, brainwashing techniques and methods to dupe members out of money.

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