Seoul, South Korea, January 16, 2019
The following is a Press Release received from the New Zealand Association for Victims of Coercive Conversion Programmes.
About 2000 members of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus held a rally in front of the Christian Council of Korea Headquarters in Jongno-gu, Seoul on January 11, 2019, demanding an end to coercive conversion programmes.
Protestors at the Rally at Jongno-gu, Seoul on January 11, 2019
They also demanded that conversion pastors should be brought to justice.
A press report said that ‘Money-making coercive conversion’ killed two people but the government remains unresponsive. As a result, a woman was rescued by fellow Shincheonji members from confinement one week after abduction.
No sign of abating
Attempts at coercive conversion show no sign of letting up in South Korea, a country that has freedom of religion guaranteed by its Constitution.
Two people have already been killed while under coercion to convert.
In 2007 in Ulsan, the late Seon-hwa Kim was killed by a hammer blow to her head by her former husband because she refused to undergo a coercive conversion programme.
In 2018 in Hwasun, Jeonnam, Gu Ji-In was confined in an isolated recreational lodge and subjected to coercive conversion; she died of suffocation at the hands of her parents as she tried to call out for help.
(Indian Newslink published a report of the rally held in connection with the death of Gu-Ji-In on January 13, 2019).
Their death was due to one reason alone: their faith was not one registered with the Christian Council of Korea (CCK) or one of the other existing denominations.
Shincheonji Chairman Man Hee Lee said that people were outraged that despite the death of two women, another woman in her forties had been confined for a week on January 3, 2019 in an isolated lodge in Pocheon, Gyeonggi-do, and subject to coercive conversion before being rescued.
According to a report by the Human Rights Association for Victims of Coercive Conversion Programs (also known as HAC), an association of victims of coercive conversion, over the past ten years around 150 Korean citizens have been abducted, confined, assaulted, and placed under danger of physical bodily harm or even their lives by reason of their faith.
A victim said, “The conversion pastors who call themselves ‘cult researchers’ seal the mouth of the member of the Church they have identified as a ‘cult’ with duct tape, bind their hands with handcuffs, and feed them sleeping pills to abduct and transport them to an isolated location. There they instruct the victim’s family that the victim needs to undergo a coercive conversion program under their direction.”
“The CCK has been randomly condemning other churches as ‘cults’ from the very beginning of its existence, and has carried out illegal coercive conversion involving abduction and confinement on members of new religions Shincheonji is advocating for the dissolution of the CCK.”
Protestors hold placards seeking end to Coercive Conversion
People’s lives are being threatened simply due to the fact that they are not part of mainstream Christianity; but the reality is that the standards for designating a cult are arbitrary, and the crimes and anti-social actions are actually being committed by the mainstream pastors instead. Such a situation should not be overlooked.
It is a severe dereliction of duty for the government to take no action regarding coercive conversion and the various illegal actions accompanying it by labelling the issue as “familial” or “religious” in nature, with the excuse that the victims are adults with the right to self-determination.