The head of the Shincheonji sect has been arrested in South Korea, and among its members there was a mass infection with the new virus at the start of the corona pandemic. 88-year-old cult leader Lee Man Hee was arrested on Saturday morning, a spokesman for the Suwon District Court told AFP. Lee is accused of providing false information about services and members of his sect to health officials.
The Shincheonji sect was at the center of the first corona contagion wave in South Korea in February and March. At that time, members of the Christian sect accounted for more than half of all cases of infection registered nationwide. By the middle of July, more than 5,200 infections had been found among the faithful.
As reported by the Yonhap news agency, citing the judge responsible, Lee is also suspected of attempting to destroy evidence. Lee has previously been suspected of misappropriating 5.6 billion won (4 million euros) in church money and holding religious events in public places without permission.
The sect itself said in a statement that Lee’s arrest was not synonymous with a judgment. The cult leader was only concerned about the “excessive requests” by health authorities for personal information. He never asked his employees to withhold information.
The Shincheonji sect was founded in 1984. Their followers believe that their founder Lee takes 144,000 people to heaven on Judgment Day. Around 200,000 people belong to the parish.
South Korea has now largely brought the corona pandemic under control. The authorities reported 31 new infections on Saturday. As a result, the total number of cases of infection detected nationwide rose to 14,336.