On Saturday, February 20, approximately 15,000 couples, or 30,000 people were married at a single event called The Holy Marriage Blessing Ceremony, in GapYeong, South Korea. Popularized by Unification Church founder, Reverend Sun Myung Moon, 3,000 of those couples were married in Korea, while the other 12,000 participated via the internet.
One third of the 3,000 couples who were married in the Church’s CheongShim Peace World Center were renewing their vows. But about 800 of the couples agreed to be matched by the Church, a custom that Reverend Moon had heavily endorsed in the past. In fact, these unions have often brought strangers of different nationality or race together.
Rev. Moon, who passed away in 2012, had presided over some of the biggest mass weddings ever, including 30,000 couple in Washington DC in 1997, and 40,000 couples simultaneously in Korea, US, Brazil and Venezuela in 2009.
The Unification Church and its mass marriages are not without their controversy. To name one, since this is a blog about the Olympics, is the case of Hiroko Yamasaki (山崎浩子), who was a member of the Japanese rhythmic gymnasitics team at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games. Along with a well-known singer and actress, Junko Sakurada, Yamasaki was married at a mass wedding presided over by Rev. Moon, along with 20,000 people from 130 countries, in August of 1992.
According to this account from the newspaper, The Australian, Yamasaki disappeared. No one knew where she had gone, not even her new husband, Hideyuki Teshigawara. Months later, Teshigawara filed a missing person’s report to the police, which led to a nation-wide search for the Olympian.
And then suddenly, one day, Yamasaki appeared, on television, saying “Everything was a mistake.” She went on to say, “I was placed in a world of delusion where people’s minds were being controlled. So I still cannot figure out to what extent the affection I felt towards Teshigawara was real.”
Over two decades later, Yamasaki is now the national coach of the Japanese women’s rhythmic gymnastics team.