November 22, 2018 21:02:33
A South Korean pastor who styled himself as a deity has been sentenced to 15 years in jail after raping eight female followers of his church.
- Lee afforded ‘deity’ status from followers
- Korea’s Christian Council booted ministry from body in 1999
- Court found Lee raped women “tens of times”
Lee Jae-Rock, founder of Seoul’s Manmin Central Church, led a 130,000-strong denomination until his downfall over recent months.
Swirling allegations of sexual abuse finally caught up with Lee, having first been accused of sexually assaulting five women in April.
At the time, the survivors reported to the Korea Herald that Lee forced them to have sex several times, and claimed it was an “order from God”.
Sexual assault support services:
- 1800 RESPECT: 1800 737 732
- Lifeline: 131 114
- Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636
Judge Chung Moon-sung told the Seoul Central District Court Lee’s sermons, “indirectly or directly suggested he is the holy spirit, deifying himself”.
The court found he raped the victims “tens of times” over a long period.
Churches or cults?
In South Korea, large Christian mega-churches are a familiar sight, wielding vast monetary assets in addition to followers.
Some people see these churches as more akin to cults, as they demand more intensive expressions of monetary and physical devotion.
In August, the South Korean leader of the Grace Road Church, Shin Ok-ju, was arrested in Seoul after it was alleged she had detained about 400 followers in Fiji.
The fringe Christian denomination believe God ordered Fiji to be the site to prepare for a major global famine and drought.
They have since opened a string of restaurants around the country, while the Methodist Church of Fiji has labelled it a cult.
Previous church leaders had stormed TV offices
On its website, the Manmin Central Church comes with the promise of miracles, free medical examinations, and one church that has turned seawater into drinkable water.
A 2007 report compiled by the Australian Refugee Tribunal tabled multiple claims of violence and intimidation toward critics of Lee.
In 1999, Lee’s church was expelled by the Christian Council of Korea. The body declared the church “heretical, owing to its aberrant religious faith, corruption and a sex scandal surrounding the church leader”.
In the same year, his followers stormed the offices of the Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), accusing them of creating a “defamatory” program against their leader.
More than 1,500 protesters led a peaceful demonstration outside the broadcaster’s offices, while three church officials stormed the station’s control room which prevented the program from being broadcast.
Originally designed to detail questions over Lee’s sex life, alongside his “heretical” claims, the broadcaster was eventually forced to remove the sexual allegations after the church took the broadcaster to court.
Lee and his supporters said repeatedly his allegations stemmed from individuals who sought revenge after being excommunicated from his ministry.
November 22, 2018 20:51:25