Mass wedding defies virus fears in S. Korea

Updated February 08, 2020

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Gapyeong: Couples wearing protective face masks attend a mass wedding ceremony organised by the Unification Church on Friday.—AFP
Gapyeong: Couples wearing protective face masks attend a mass wedding ceremony organised by the Unification Church on Friday.—AFP

GAPYEONG: Thousands of couples — some in facemasks — tied the knot in a mass Unification Church wedding on Friday, despite concerns in South Korea over the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

The church founded by Sun Myung Moon — revered as a messiah by his followers — distributed face coverings to the 30,000 crowd, but only some donned them.

“I am overwhelmed that I am getting married today,” said Choi Ji-young, who met her husband — matched by the church — only two months ago.

“It would be a lie if I said I was not concerned at all about the infection,” said the 21-year-old university student. “But I feel like I will be protected from the virus today.” South Korea has recorded 24 cases of the novel coronavirus outbreak that emerged in neighbouring China, where more than 30,000 cases have been confirmed, and Seoul has barred entry to foreigners who have recently been in Wuhan, the epidemic’s centre.

Festivals, graduation ceremonies, and K-pop concerts have been cancelled over fears large events could facilitate virus transmission, and authorities have asked religious groups to co-operate in preventing it spreading.

The church went ahead with the event because it had been “four years in the making” as part of the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of Moon’s birth, said official Jang Young-chul. But followers from China were asked not to come, he added.

Nearly 6,000 identical-dressed couples from 64 countries — many of whom met for the first time in recent weeks — married in Gapyeong, a festive mood filling the venue as newlyweds took group photos and were congratulated by friends and relatives.

Published in Dawn, February 8th, 2020