Articles From the January 1993 Unification News


The Strange Case Of Thirty Thousand Cases

by Paul Johnson

When I arrived in Korea last week for a brief visit, I found Kimpo airport at Seoul teaming with an enormous number of young men. They appeared to come from all over the East and most of them were foreigners, Long queues stretched in front of the immigration desks. This annoyed me but it did not seem to disturb the young men, who were laughing and chattering. They were clearly pleased with life. When I finally got through, I remarked on the phenomenon of the young men to the people who met me. 'Oh', they said, 'if you had been here earlier in the day you would have found the airport crammed with young women.' The fact is I had stumbled upon the gathering of what was described as 30,000 pure young men and women from 120 countries who had come to Seoul to be married in a giant wedding ceremony in the Olympic Stadium.

This event had been organized by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, and he conducted the ceremony which took place on Tuesday. I received an invitation to it in exquisite Korean script and I regret I could not be there. The Rev. Moon is a strenuous campaigner for world peace, and one way he believes it can be furthered is by encouraging young people to marry across national, racial and color divides. This is a radical attitude anywhere but more so in the East than in the West, for many oriental societies are still endogamous. Neighboring peoples, such as Koreans and Japanese for instance, are highly suspicious of each other, what we would call "racist". So encouraging them to inter-marry may well be a step in the right direction. However, I don't intend to argue the point either way. What aroused my interest was being told that many of the 30,000 brides and grooms had never really actually met, though they had corresponded and exchanged photographs. They had been matched up as it were, by the Rev. Moon personally or by his organization.

Most people in the West find this outrageous but we are in the minority, if a growing one. The Far Eastern Economic Review tells us, in the current issue, that when the population peak is reached, the population of China will be 1,890 million, Pakistan 520 million, Bangladesh 295 million, Indonesia 370 million and Vietnam 165 million. That is 5,115 million from just six countries, making all our western societies together look puny. And the likelihood is that most of the marriages generated by this huge mass will be arranged by parents of families in one way or another, as they always have been. But parents and families are often motivated by unworthy considerations, usually financial. So it may be that matching by a disinterested outsider, concerned only with decorum and compatibility (and, in Mr. Moon's case, internationalism) would be an improvement. That, interestingly enough was Dr. Johnson's view. Even in England, he thought, 'Marriages would in general be as happy, and often more so, if they were all made by the Lord Chancellor.'

His own marriage with a widow, Tetty, entered into from love, was far from happy; a failure indeed. Surveying the multitude of his friends and acquaintances, he saw that unions produced by mutual choice often worked badly. The notion that a man can find bliss only with one special woman, still widely held today, he thought rubbish. When Boswell asked him: 'Pray Sir, do you not suppose that there are fifty women in the world, with any of whom a man, may be as happy as with any woman in particular?' Johnson replied, 'Ay, Sir, fifty thousand.' This is a harsh, shocking doctrine to us. We find it hard to credit that the 4th Duke of Norfolk, who lost his head for conspiring to marry Mary Queen of Scots, had no contest with her except by letter. 'For other eyeliking hath not passed between them', as Washington put it. We are brought up on the romantic notion of a coupde foudre, a flash of recognition of mutual need, which only personal contact can produce.

Yet, Hollywood, the place where the ideology of romance is pursued most relentlessly both in theory and in practice, is notorious for the multiplicity of it's failed marriages. Henry VIII, the unhappy prototype of the much-married man, as Antonia Fraser's new book reminds us, made the disastrous error of mixing reasons of state, which were naturally predominant, with personal romance. He wanted male heirs and supposed a girl with flashing eyes more likely to produce them. If anyone ever did, he illustrated Johnson's maxim that to marry again is "the triumph of hope over experience".

It seems to be that our present royal family has now tested the theory of romantic marriage to destruction. Traditionally, most royal unions had been arranged. When Princess Margaret fell in love with Group-Captain Townsend, she was argued out of her desire to marry him. But that was the turning-point. Thereafter, the palace, egged on by the media and the approval of public opinion, foolishly scrapped its prohibitions and allowed its young people to marry anyone within reason whom they fancied. The result has been a series of much publicized disasters, with possibly more to come. Having failed to stick to its principles, the monarchy now finds itself in real trouble, with the media in full cry and public opinion increasingly following. It should ignore both and go back to the well-tried old methods, risking being called stuffy. But it is probably too late for that.

Meanwhile, young people who study royal behavior carefully, are in danger of drawing the wrong conclusions from the breakdowns and scandals. Instead of reacting in favor of more prudential marriages, putting sense before sensibility, they are turning against formal marriages altogether. It matters not that informal arrangements, such as that between Mia Farrow and Woody Allen, are still more likely to end in anguish and recrimination, as a growing body of evidence proves. To many emancipated young women - and it is the women who decide, in most cases, whether marriages occur or not - it now seems a shrewder bet not to marry at all. That is the road to misery and economic disaster, both for individuals and society. So I am glad that someone, albeit in distant Korea, is trying out another alternative, and I shall look with interest to see whether the statistics confirm the wisdom of these new-style arranged unions. The Lord Chancellor, a canny Scot doubtless anxious for fresh business, ought to keep an eye on them too.

(c) Paul Johnson. First published in The Spectator.


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