The 88-year-old founder of Shincheonji Church of Jesus - Lee Man-hee is at the center of controversy after being charged for "murder" over the role his sect played in the spread of coronavirus in South Korea.
Shincheonji is a doomsday cult often viewed with suspicion for its secretive nature. The fanatical followers of this cultic Protestant Christian organization believe that founder Lee is the returned Jesus Christ, who now has been gifted the special ability to understand the coded mysteries in the bible. The followers believe only Lee Man-hee has the power to correctly understand the bible.
The founder of this doomsday cult, which boasts of a membership of over 200,000; went down on his knees last week seeking "forgiveness" from the people of South Korea for the role his followers played in the spread of the highly contagious COVID 19 in the country.
The devout followers of Lee believe that on the Day of Judgment, Lee has the power to take 144,000 adherents to Heaven with him.
Lee Man-hee, however, is facing some serious charges after the mayor of Seoul sued key leaders of the Shincheonji religious group. Mayor Park Won-soon charged the Shincheonji Church of Jesus leaders "for murder, injury, and violation of prevention and management of infectious diseases."
The protestant Christian cult has been accused of contributing to the exponential spike in coronavirus cases in the city of Daegu.
According to South Korea's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the followers of Shincheonji accounted for almost 60% of all COVID 19 cases in the country, with most of them centered in Daegu.
A 61-year-old woman in the sect, infamously known as the "patient 31" developed a fever on February 10 but attended at least four church services in Daegu – the country's fourth-biggest city with a population of 2.5 million and the center of the outbreak – before being diagnosed.
Lee, who previously called coronavirus the "devil's deed" to stop his church's growth, went down on his knees and with bowed head asked for forgiveness during the press conference held outside the sects HQ in Gapyeong.
"I would like to offer my sincere apology to the people on behalf of the members," Shincheonji said while many in the public chanted slogan and called for the dissolution of Shincheonji. The group though "appears like a Christian sect" is considered heretical.
"Although it was not intentional, many people have been infected. We made our utmost efforts but were unable to prevent it all. I seek the forgiveness of the people.
"I am very thankful to the government for its efforts. I also seek the forgiveness of the government."