SEOUL, South Korea, Aug. 18, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- ThePersecuted.org is releasing information on the South Korean government's response to South Korea's latest coronavirus outbreak. An illegal anti-government rally this weekend attended by hundreds of members of Sarang Jeil Presbyterian Church became the catalyst for South Korea's latest coronavirus outbreak. The government is now scrambling to contain this outbreak, which authorities characterize as a "much bigger crisis than Shincheonji." President Moon Jae In called the church's actions an "unpardonable act against the safety of the people" and he has vowed to "take decisive actions, including coercive measures" against the church and its leader, Pastor Jeon Kwang-hoon.
Pastor Jeon Kwang-hoon is the incumbent president of the Christian Council of Korea, an alliance organization representing a large number of the country's evangelical churches. In the past months, Pastor Jeon has been a vocal opponent of President Moon Jae-In, holding rallies against the president and calling for his impeachment. The members of his church, 4,000 member Sarang Jeil Presbyterian Church, have been gathering for church services for the past several weeks, despite government orders to the contrary. In the midst of this, a huge coronavirus outbreak has occurred, and Pastor Jeon himself tested positive for the virus.
In February, Shincheonji Church's Daegu branch made headlines when a huge outbreak occurred there. Although very few health orders had been given in the time leading up to it, as soon as the outbreak occurred all services and meetings were closed as the church attempted to comply with government orders. However, because of delays in producing a full membership list for contact tracing, South Korea's Minister of Justice Choo Mi-ae pressed charges against the church. This resulted in the jailing of three church leaders as well as the church's 90-year-old chairman Mr. Lee Man-Hee; all of whom are now awaiting trial for "murder by wilful negligence" for allegedly contributing to COVID-19's spread. A tax probe was also launched to push forward the removal of church property and nonprofit licenses.
Shincheonji Church has not met since the outbreak first occurred in February.
In contrast, Sarang Jeil Presbyterian Church has continued to hold church services and political rallies opposing President Moon Jae-In. These gatherings are what culminated to produce the unfortunate outbreak of this past week. Pastor Jeon had told members that God would heal them at the church services if they had been infected, and not to get tested for COVID-19 until their rallies were over. 2500 of their congregation was tested, and 457 of those were confirmed to have the virus. 800 members could not be reached.
Although the two outbreaks have been compared, the way the government responded to this latest outbreak was markedly different to the way it responded to Shincheonji's. Pastor Jeon Kwang hoon is currently released on bail for previous charges of flouting COVID-19 health orders in March. In contrast, Chairman Lee Man Hee of Shincheonji has been detained and his appeal was denied. Unlike the case of Shincheonji's outbreak, no further action has been taken against the Sarang Jeil church or its leadership by the government. No warrants for arrest have been issued nor investigations launched, and there have been no reported cases of public discrimination.
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SOURCE The Persecuted