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Thursday, 10 February, 2000, 18:47 GMT
10,000 to wed in stadium

Bride Couples attending mass weddings will often never have met before


Couples from North Korea are to take part in a mass wedding staged by the Unification Church in the South Korean capital, Seoul.

About 10,000 couples are to be married in the ceremony to be held in the city's Olympic Stadium at the weekend.

Wedding Mass weddings are a regular feature of moonie culture
Another 20,000 followers of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon - known as "moonies" - will reaffirm their vows.

But rather than turning up in the South Korean capital, the North Korean couples have sent their photographs to a centre in China where they will be matched by church officials ahead of a "marriage by video".

The couples will be deemed to have been married by the church after a video of the Reverend Moon's blessing is shown in the presence of the photographs.

Their pictures will also be displayed on a live video link to the stadium.

Church business

The Reverend Moon, who was born in the north of the Korean peninsular in 1920, has been hosting mass weddings for decades - either during regular return visits to Korea or elsewhere in the world.

Reverend Moon Reverend Moon was born in North Korea 80 years ago
The Unification Church has been expanding it business operations into North Korea for a number of years, running a hotel, restaurant and trading company in the capital, Pyongyang.

Last week it started work on a car assembly plant in the North in a joint venture with Italian manufacturer Fiat.

Church officials say the North Korean couples' participation in the wedding is the result of "underground evangelical activities" in the tightly-controlled communist state.

Birthday banquet

Kim Jong-Il Birthday greetings from Kim Jong-Il
On Thursday the Reverend Moon, who now bases himself in Brazil, celebrated his 80th birthday with a lavish banquet in Seoul for more than 16,000.

Among the guests were former US vice president Dan Quayle, ex-British Prime Minister Edward Heath and the new Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid.

Church officials say that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il sent rare wild ginseng and a greetings card to mark the birthday.

'Original sin'

The Reverend Moon founded the Unification Church in 1954 as a movement dedicated to building world peace through loving families.


A giant cake marks the birthday celebration A giant cake marks the birthday celebration
It currently claims about 4.5 million followers around the world.

His philosophy is based on the original sin - the temptation of Eve by Satan and the ensuing downfall of mankind.

Followers believe that the Messiah was sent by God to rid the human race of this sin and start anew. But the objective was never fulfilled because Christ was crucified before he could marry.

The Reverend Moon sees his mission as continuing the work of Jesus Christ in creating a new "family of man" and in 1992 he declared that he and his wife were the true parents of all humanity.
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See also:
15 Aug 99 |  Americas
Moonies make 'heaven on earth'
07 Feb 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Moonies wed on the Net

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