Police raid Korean Christian cult in sex crime probe

Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) [Hong Kong]

March 24, 2023

By UCA News reporter

Detained JMS Church founder faces fresh multiple allegations from female followers

South Korean prosecutors and police raided the compound of a controversial religious sect, the Jesus Morning Star, as part of ongoing investigations into sexual assault allegations against its leader, reports say.

Investigators from Chungnam Provincial Police and the Daejeon District Prosecutors Office searched the JMS training center in Geumsan, about 165 kilometers south of the capital Seoul, and other sites on March 23 to secure evidence to support allegations that he sexually assaulted female followers, Yonhap news agency reported.

The sect’s founder and leader, Jeong Myeong-seok, 77, remains detained and faces charges of sexual assaults on two foreign female followers. Recently, three more female followers filed fresh charges of sexual assault against him.

Prosecutors said that they have stepped up the investigation against Jeong as his detention period is set to expire soon.

Jeong was released in 2018 after serving 10 years in jail for raping a number of female followers and embezzling JMS funds. Since then, multiple sexual abuse allegations have been made against him.

He founded the JMS Church, also known as Christian Gospel Mission, in the 1980s, recruiting young people from Korea and other countries.

Jeong claimed he was the Messiah or the savior of humanity.

However, in 1999, allegations of sexual abuse and fund embezzlement started to surface, and he fled the country. He was jailed in 2008.

However, he was back in the spotlight again last October when the Daejeon district court jailed him after he was found guilty of rape following allegations from several women.

JMS and three other Christian cults made headlines in recent weeks after a Netflix documentary exposed the dark side of four religious leaders including Jeong. The series features two foreign victims who were allegedly abused by Jeong.

Requests from JMS and another cult, Baby Garden Church, seeking an injunction on the airing of the documentary were rejected by the courts.  

Earlier, South Korea’s Prosecutor-General Lee One-seok said he had instructed prosecutors to do their best to ensure Jeong faces strict punishment for his past actions.