South Korean doomsday cult leader is jailed for six years over beatings and brutal rituals handed out to hundreds of followers to ‘drive out evil spirits’
- Shin Ok-ju convinced 400 of her followers to move to Fiji to protect themselves
- Once they arrived their passports were taken and they suffered physical torture
- Shin was convicted of violence, child abuse and fraud and sentenced yesterday
The leader of a South Korean doomsday cult who held hundreds of followers captive and subjected them to violence and barbaric rituals has been jailed for six years.
Shin Ok-ju, founder of the Grace Road Church, convinced 400 followers to move to Fiji in 2014, where she said they would be safe from impending disasters.
But once they arrived on the island their passports were taken away from them and many were allegedly beaten or subject to brutal rituals purportedly aimed at driving out evil spirits.
On Monday a South Korean court found Shin guilty on multiple criminal charges including violence, child abuse and fraud.
Shin Ok-ju, founder of the Grace Road Church, convinced her followers to move to Fiji in 2014, where she said they would be safe from impending disasters
‘The victims suffered helplessly from collective beatings and experienced not only physical torture but also severe fear and considerable mental shock,’ the court said.
‘Heavy punishment is inevitable against illegal acts carried out in the name of religion,’ it added in a statement earlier this week.
The six-year sentence was confirmed yesterday.
Some followers who escaped told journalists that those who attempted to leave the church were punished with severe public beatings known as ‘ground threshings’.
‘A son beat his father 100 to 200 times at a ground thrashing session’, a former follower told a South Korean TV programme.
‘Another congregant was hit more than 600 times and he died after returning home,’ a witness said.
Christian-inspired cults have mushroomed in South Korea where more than a quarter of the population are Protestants or Catholics.
A mega-church leader who claimed to be the messiah was sentenced to 16 years in prison at an appeal court in May for raping multiple female followers.
Christian-inspired cults have mushroomed in South Korea. Last year pastor Lee Jaerock (pictured at a court in Seoul) was convicted of raping several of his followers
Pastor Lee Jaerock was convicted last year of raping eight women more than 40 times.
The 75-year-old had denied the charges, claiming the victims were all highly educated individuals and it was therefore ‘impossible for anyone to sexually assault them’.
Earlier this year the Seoul High Court upheld his original conviction and added a ninth victim who came forward after his first trial, extending his sentence by a year.
Another group, the World Mission Society Church of God predicted the end of the world would come on December 31, 1999.
Despite the failed prediction, an anti-cult group estimates that the Church has more than 200,000 followers, although it claims more than two million.
Its founder Ahn Sang-hong, who died in 1985, is in effect worshipped as the Heavenly Father.