"Shincheonji Church of Jesus the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony" is the full official name of the Korean based 'church' that is most often referred to as Sincheonji or SCJ. Shincheonji is also known as the "New Heaven and New Earth" church and is led by it's pastor 88 year old Lee Man-Hee.
This is how an expert on religious cults, Peter Lineham from Massey University in Aukland, described SCJ in a 2017 interview with the New Zealand Herald.
Founded in the 1980s, followers are taught to believe that Lee, the founder, was the second coming or the returned Jesus Christ.
"It fits with a number of similar cults, where...the new messiah will take over the role of Jesus and comes with all the authority of Jesus...it has a huge, huge appeal," Lineham said.
"This type of religion involves learning to read the Bible in a very distinct way, so you read the Bible as a kind of code, and you're looking for ways to interpret this code...everything then confirms the 'absolute truth' of this kind of movement."
In order to be accepted into the SCJ church, members must complete a series of bible based exams. Massive examination events are regularly held throughout Korea with hundreds and even thousands sitting the exams at the same time. The exams cover the book of Genesis to the book of Revelations and are offered at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels.
One of the most notable features of the Shincheonji cult is that the organization and its members operate under a shroud of secrecy. Many of its members conceal their affiliation with the religious sect and go to great lengths to prevent their own family members from learning of their involvement with the cult.
In addition to individual secrecy, it is believed that hundreds of congregations are secretly associated with SCJ.
In a statement on Feb. 21, the Korean Association of Church Communication (KOACC) said, “Shinjeonji currently has 125 disguised locations of religious activity nationwide, a number that increases to 740 if small meeting places are included.”
Leader Lee Man-Hee
Born September 15th 1931, Lee Man-Hee is the founder, chairman and spiritual leader of ShincheonJi. Lee established SCJ in 1984 in South Korea. Lee's followers believe that he is the "sole interpreter" for secret codes contained in the book of Revelations.
In a statement posted on their website addressing accusations that SCJ is a cult Lee argues that the allegations are politically motivated and that claims made by organizations such as the Christian Broadcasting System and their allies are without merit because they are not based on the teachings of the bible or in theology.
The reality today is that the judgement of being a cult is purely based on political influence and the effect from the society as well as the number of believers of that church – not based on the scripture and the theological theories. The Communion of Churches in Korea (CCIK) has separated from the Christian Council of Korea (CCK) because of the difference of opinion on the judgement of being a cult. If anyone has helped the effort for election, he or she would have been removed from being a cult. In contrast, if the interest was different from the first place, then even the head of the emergency cult council would be declared as a cult. A good evidence of this is that a pastor, who was once declared to be a cult, now heads up the head of Shincheonji Emergency Council, which clearly shows the judgement of being a cult is purely decided upon those political influences as well as power.
출처 : 천지일보(http://www.newscj.com)
Outbreak in Daegu
At the epicentre of the Corona Virus outbreak in Korea is the city of Daegu. In a matter of days, the number of Corona Virus cases in Korea has exploded from a handful of cases in mid-February to over 3,500 confirmed cases (as of time of writing - Feb. 29).
While Korea's patient-zero has not been decisively determined, there's no denying that the spike in cases is directly connected to the ShincheonJi church and its membership.
On February 7, a woman now known as patient-31, was admitted to hospital in Daegu after being in a minor traffic accident. Later, on February 14th, patient-31 was suffering from flu-like symptoms but refused to be tested, on several occasions for COVID-19, claiming that she had not traveled abroad so there was no need to test her.
While under care at the hospital, it is alleged that 61 year old patient-31 left the hospital without permission and attended a gathering at the local Shincheonji Shinto church. It is believed that patient-31 had contracted the virus and potentially exposed hundreds of church members in the process.
Later, on February 17th patient-31 was officially diagnosed with COVID-19.
Through a family spokesperson, patient 31, strenuously denies being asked to be tested by the hospital medical staff for COVID-19. Curiously, it has been reported that no other family member of patient-31 has contracted the virus.
In response to the outbreak, the country's national and regional governments have moved to shutdown SCJ facilities nationwide.
Virus Spreading Further with Cult Members
On February 17th, a member of SCJ, a another 60 year old woman known simply as "Mrs. A", relocated from her home in Daegu to Bupyeong in Incheon, a major city west of the Korean capital Seoul.
"Mrs. A" had recently attended a gathering in Daegu's Shincheonji Church and authorities are still unclear as to why a woman in her 60s suddenly decided to leave her home and move into an apartment in a busy urban centre of Bupyeong, Incheon. In Korea, it is customary to register with local offices upon moving to a new district, however "Mrs. A" failed to notify officials of her arrival.
It is believed that Mrs. A was potentially in contact with numerous individuals infected with the Corona Virus at the assembly "Mrs. A" had attended in Daegu before relocating tp Incheon.
Referring to the Shincheonji gatherings in the Incheon area:
Park said, “There is currently no information from Shingu about the attendees of the Shincheonji Rally.” “We closed 43 Shincheonji facilities in the Incheon area on the 21st by blocking the spread of infection by Shincheonji Shinto.”
Spreading the word of our Lord
Recruitment & Infiltration of Rival Churches
Well known throughout Korean Christian communities is the practice of SCJ cells known as "reapers" sent to infiltrate and takeover other churches.
Moon described Shincheonji as a "dangerous cult".
They are extreme people...they can harm families, and cause serious problems in society and churches as well," Moon said.
"They send their people into the church, some try to get into positions of pastors, with the final aim of taking over the church."
"The cult has also helped many believers run away from home, cut ties with their families and (they have been) asked to give all their money to Shincheonji," Moon said.
SCJ are what experts call a "Conversionist" or "Seperatist" church, who actively seek out new members through clandestine recruitment campaigns.
Recruitment methods involve "reapers", already full cult members, posing as members of the target parish claiming to be pursuing true path and answers surrounding their faith. They often target unsuspecting church goers and only reveal themselves as members of SCJ once they have converted their targets.
SCJ members are also known to attempt to remove a church's pastor to be replaced by an SCJ member with the ultimate goal of encompassing the church under the SCJ umbrella.
It is believed that there exists a significant number of secret SCJ members throughout the country many of whom are suspected as being affiliated with Korea's conservative party - United Future Party (formerly Saenuri).
SCJ in Wuhan
While officials attempt to put together the pieces as to how the virus first appeared in Daegu, Korean netizens have discovered that SCJ has a branch of their church located in...
wait for it...
Not long after the Daegu outbreak was tied to members of the SCJ cult, references on SCJ's website connecting the church to Wuhan were quickly taken down. Nevertheless, screenshots describing the opening of an SCJ branch in Wuhan were captured and posted online. There are also reports from Chinese sources complaining of the presence and the cult and its activities inside China.
[Screen Capture of SCJ website and showing branch in Wuhan, China 2019]
Sharing its overseas missionary activities on its official website, Shincheonji mentions the establishment of a church in Wuhan, China, last year. Some observers are now questioning whether the virus has been spread by congregation members who became infected while traveling to the Wuhan church. In response, Shincheonji said that the “church in Wuhan is unable to engage in activities because it has been closed by Chinese authorities, so no congregation members have been there.”
SCJ claims that they were unable to establish operations in Wuhan and were prevented from engaging in promotional activities by Chinese authorities. In other words, the cult's representatives claims that SCJ has had no activity in China.
Refusing to Reveal Cult Membership
Throughout the past few weeks, SCJ has made several statements claiming that their church is the true victim of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Moon Jae-in government is a nation that Shincheonji believers should be grateful for first because they become a collective infection. If a group infection had occurred since the first Guro Call Center, it would have been strongly accused of being triggered by not prohibiting Chinese entry.
출처 : 천지일보(http://www.newscj.com)
Coronal prosecutors of Shinchonji believers were erected by compulsoryly collecting a list of 300,000 people both at home and abroad, as well as 250,000 and trainees. As a result, even though there was no group infection in Shincheonji area other than the Daegu Gyeongbuk region, Shincheonji has been driven as the epicenter of corona spread until now due to the group infection in Shincheonji region in Daegu.
The first reason for the government of the Moon Jae-in to thank Shincheonji is to have a chance to avoid the accusation that 'this situation was caused by not being allowed to enter the country' because it first became a collective infection in Shincheonji where the heresy frame was covered by vested interests.
출처 : 천지일보(http://www.newscj.com)
As the crisis has unfolded, it has been revealed that a government official in charge of spearheading the fight against COVID-19 was forced to admit that he too was a member of the SCJ cult as he also recently contracted the virus.
The fight to contain the pandemic is being significantly hampered as SCJ refuses to reveal a complete list of the church's membership.
Apparently, it would appear that SCJ is attempting to shield the identities of some of the cult's most powerful members. Once again, by placing the secrecy and loyalty to the church above the health and safety of the Korean public. Instead, SCJ prefers to cover and to protect their members rather than cooperate.
It has been reported that SCJ submitted what they claim to be a full list of names of Shincheonji members to authorities. However, the list submitted by SCJ has some glaring inconsistencies.
The list of Shincheon members of Gyeongnam-do submitted by the Shinchon Regional Church to the Centers for Disease Control differs significantly from the list that Gyeongnam-do and the cities and counties had identified themselves. Gyeongnam Province plans to take strong legal action if it is found that Sincheonji deliberately omitted the list.
According to Gyeongnam Province on the 1st, the total number of Shincheon members of the Gyeongnam region submitted to the Centers for Disease Control was 8617. However, the number of people surveyed by Gyeongnam-do and Si-gun through Shincheon Branch Church in Gyeongnam area is 9157, which is 540 people.
In particular, only 8 out of 17 confirmed patients with Gyeongnam Coronavirus Infection (Corona 19) who were reported to have visited Sincheonji Church and facilities in Daegu were listed on the list, and the remaining 9 were not included in the list.
Provided by the Sincheonji site Sincheonji members 8617 people Gyeongnam-do figure 9157 people difference 540 people
Considering the fact that the numbers submitted to the KCDC (Korean Centre for Disease Control) do not match the numbers of members collected by regional officials is very troubling.
Update (March 30, 2020)
At the time of writing this post Korea had the third highest cases of COVID-19 in the world and a rapid explosion in cases.
Since the, South Korea's response to the global pandemic by the government and health care professionals has been praised internationally for their recent success in slowing the spread. A combination of free blanket testing, rapid deployment of resources and full public transparency has lead to a drastic reduction in new cases.
Currently, South Korea has about 9661 confirmed cases with 5228 recovered and 158 deaths.