Thousands Tie The Knot In First Moon Church Mass Wedding Since Founder’s Death [PHOTOS]

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By Amrutha Gayathri | February 17, 2013 7:55 PM EST

Thousands of people tied the knot in South Korea Sunday in the first mass wedding organized by the Unification Church since the death of its controversial founder Sun Myung Moon in September.

Some 3,500 identically-dressed couples — many of mixed nationality who had met just days before — took part in the ceremony at the church's headquarters in Gapyeong, east of the capital Seoul, AFP reported.

Moon, a self-styled messiah and a media-mogul, set up the Church regarded by its critics as a dangerous cult, in 1954 in Seoul. Its followers, often called Moonies, shared their leader’s strong belief in marriage and anti-Communist sentiments.

Moon, who accumulated massive wealth that included large assets in the U.S., was convicted of massive tax evasion in the 1982 and spent 11 months behind bars. Upon his release from prison, he joined with other American churches to campaign for religious freedom. Moon died five months ago, aged 92, of complications from pneumonia. An estimated 30,000 people attended his funeral.

Moon, who often paired up couples for the Church’s mass weddings, preferred cross-cultural, international marriages, which at times meant that the partners did not share a common language.

Sunday's event was presided over by Moon's 70-year-old widow Hak Ja Han, who picked partners for some 400 of the Church's members a few days before at an "engagement ceremony.”

"Yeah, I was pretty nervous," an attendee Jin Davidson, a 21-year-old student from the U.S., told AFP.

Davidson, whose Australian father and Japanese mother were matched by Moon, said he did not know Japanese and his Japanese bride, Kotona Shimizu, also 21, spoke “only a little English.”

“But we see it as an exciting challenge and proof of our faith," he told AFP.

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