Seoul, South Korea, April 4, 2018
The South Korean government has been actively engaged in the reconciliation process with North Korea, but not a single official statement has been issued on the 1000 people who have been victims to Coercive Conversion Programmes in recent years.
Coercive Conversion Programmes are led by Christian pastors. They are reported to have resorted to violence to forcefully change the religious preferences of the victims who belong to different religious denominations.
The Human Rights Association for Victims of Coercive Conversion Programmes (HAC), hosted a rally on March 4, 2018 in major cities, including Seoul.
The rally was held to demand legislation to protect religious freedom and human rights; and for investigation of Christian pastors involved in instigating kidnapping and confining individuals by family members, as part of Coercive Conversion Programmes.
About 100,000 Korean citizens participated in the rally.
The last rally was held in January after the death of a young woman who fell victim to Coercive Conversion. More than 200,000 gathered in 22 locations in 12 countries including the United States, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and France.
The recent rally was a part of an international movement, condemning the silence of the Korean government and Christian community in the country.
Twenty-year-old Korean woman Ji-in Gu was found dead in January while being confined in a holiday house far away from her home.
She was kidnapped by her family and allegedly suffocated to death while being forced to change her religion.
Prior to this incident, in 2016, her family took her to a Catholic monastery where a Christian pastor is alleged to have forced her to convert.
Petition for protection
Following her first confinement, the late Ms Gu offered a petition on the legal protection of citizens from religious discrimination to the ‘Blue House,’ the Presidential office of South Korea.
There has been no official response from the Blue House and Ms Gu was kidnapped again. She died in January.
The HAC urged the government to take responsibility for the investigation of the Conversion Programme, and to advocate for the prevention of its reoccurrence in similar cases. The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said that it cannot carry out any religious investigation stating that the Church was distinct from the State.
The HAC has reported that there have been 1000 victims in the last decade.
Their online petition for the ban on Coercive Conversion Programmes received 140,000 supporters but disappeared from the government website without an explanation.
The religious circle in South Korea is also silent.
Targeting those who change their religious orientations, Coercive Conversion Programmes by Christian pastors have been carried out with a tacit agreement from Churches in Korea.
In the name of “educating lost followers taken to cults,” the Korea Christian Heresy Research Center has been promoting the Conversion Programme, claiming that the pastors involved in ‘cult consulting’ should be protected.
HAC Co-President Ji Hye Choi said that the problem of Coercive Conversion Programmes was that pastors consider it as a business to make money in the name of ‘counseling’ for protection of families from cults.
“Through this, they instill distrust in the family against other family members who pursue differing religions. The consequence is destructive. Mental traumas, fear, family breakdown, divorce, losing jobs, school dropout and many other irreversible problems continue,” she said.
In her interview at ‘France Inter,’ a French State-run Radio, she said, “Three men came to me, grabbed my hair and dragged me. I jumped over the wall, ran on bare feet and luckily got a taxi to escape. My life changed forever, I lost my family. I reported what happened to the Police, but their response was that family issues should be handled within the family.”
The above is a Press Release, written by HWPL with information provided by HAC.
More than 10,000 protestors joined the ‘Memorial Walk’ in Seoul on March 4, 2018.
15,000 protestors and mourners at the Memorial Service and Rally