Aug 13, 2018

South Korean 'cult' leader arrested after congregation 'trapped and beaten' on Fiji

Shin Ok-ju and three senior members of the Grace Road Church were arrested
Shin Ok-ju
Julian Ryall
The Telegraph
August 1, 2018

South Korean police have arrested a pastor who allegedly convinced 400 followers to flee to Fiji because a “great famine” was imminent on the Korean Peninsula but then forced her flock to take part in ritual beatings that left one member with brain damage.

Shin Ok-ju and three senior members of the Grace Road Church were arrested after landing at Incheon Airport in South Korea on Saturday.

South Korea’s Christian Daily newspaper reported that Mrs Shin is being questioned in connection with allegations that she confiscated the passports of the 400 members of her congregation who moved to Fiji in 2014. She reportedly refused to let them leave the 83-acre compound where they lived communally under the close watch of handpicked “guardians”.

She is also being questioned about the alleged ritual that church members knew as “the threshing ground”, in which followers were forced to beat each other until they were bloodied. Those who declined to take part would become the “target of God’s punishment”, they were allegedly told.

According to The Korea Times, former member claimed that one boy was forced to hit his father more than 100 times as part of the ritual, while another follower sustained brain damage as a result of the beatings.

Five members of the group were allegedly able to escape and alerted South Korean authorities.

Mainstream South Korean church leaders have described Mrs Shin’s “arbitrary explanations of the Bible” as heretical, while coverage of the church’s activities in Fiji has led to local media describing it as a “cult”.

Followers were allegedly encouraged to give up their studies or jobs to follow Mrs Shin’s teachings, while others left their families or got divorced in order to move to Fiji.

One former member told Christian Daily that conditions within the church worsened after its members moved to Fiji.

“This is not the inner problem of a religion; it is an anti-huma, fraudulent pilgrimage by a fraudulent group”, he said.

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