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South Korea’s Coronavirus Cases Surge to Almost 3,000 Because of A ‘Cult’

South Korean officials believe a “Christian cult” spread the virus in the country.

  • A large number of Koreans in Daegu and Gyeongsang provinces are testing positive of the coronavirus.
  • South Korea is reported to have the highest confirmed cases of coronavirus around the world, outside China.
  • The virus, according to the government, spread because of a certain cult in Daegu called “Shincheonji Church” which implements a non-disclosure rule when a member falls ill.

South Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that the total number of individuals getting infected of the coronavirus (COVID-19) have already reached 2,931 in the country. Majority of that figure, it said, came from Daegu province and its neighboring region North Gyeongsang province.

South Korea is reported to have the highest incidents of the dreaded disease around the world, outside China, with 16 deaths as of this writing. This was despite the announcement made a few weeks ago that the disease was “not something as serious as one might think”. At the time, the government almost declared their victory against the virus, after having only 30 incidents.

However, an unexpected surge of infection increased after the 31st patient was identified to be from an alleged “Christian cult.”

The sect called Shincheonji, Church of Jesus, the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony was founded in 1984 by Lee Man-hee. According to reports, Lee has been teaching about the second coming of Jesus who will establish the “new spiritual Israel” in the end times.

Koreans expressed anger against the said Church for spreading the most feared virus in the country.

Due to the public anger, Shincheonji Church leader had secretly turned over the list of its 212,000 faithfuls to the government. The church claimed that they have Shincheonji Chruch branches in 29 countries around the world.

The local government there said that those church members will immediately be checked or quarantined in their homes to make sure that they do not carry the common coronavirus symptoms.

So how does the virus spread like wildfire?

An opinion piece by Nathan Park said the spread occured because of Shincheonji’s “bad theology practices”. He said that this religious organization teaches its faithfuls that “illness is a sin.”

When a member gets sick, Shincheonji’s leader encourages them “to suffer through diseases” by attending the church services where they sit closely to each other.

The cult also believes in a practice called “deceptive proselytizing” where Shincheonji faithfuls were required to keep their membership secret, even among their family members. They were taught a prearranged set of answers in case anyone outside from their pact asks if they belong to the church.

“The net effect is that Shincheonji followers infect each other easily, then go onto infect the community at large,” Park said.

So far, there have been no official reports about how cult followers contracted the deadly coronavirus but the South Korean government suspects that the female patient was not the first one to be infected among them, considering the timeline of her symptoms.

Despite having high fever, the patient still attended two Shincheonji services with more than 1,000 fellow followers. She also attended a wedding and an event conference for a pyramid scheme.

The patient only decided to visit the clinic when the fever got worse. The doctors then advised her to be tested of coronavirus but she repeatedly refused.

Another Shincheonji member went to the hospital and had herself checked over high-fever. When she learned she will be quarantined for days, she quickly ran away from the medical facility.

Meanwhile, one woman donated her liver to her mother waiting for a transplant only admitted recently that she is a member of the same cult. It’s also been reported that she had high fever.

Like the three above-mentioned patients, a Daegu City official also revealed of being a member of Shincheonji only after he was confirmed to have contracted the deadly disease.

So far, a brother of the Shincheonji founder died from the virus. The Cheongdo Daenam Hospital alone, where the patient died, have 114 cases, most of whom “were long-term psychiatric patients,” said a report. These patients never left the hospital and were not quarantined, which led to them infecting fellow psychiatric patients. Eventually, 12 coronavirus deaths were recorded there.

Shincheonji has total of 19 churches in China, including Wuhan. The government suspects that the spread happened when cult members from China attended the funeral of their leader’s brother.

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