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Coronavirus: South Korean Shincheonji sect chief arrested

People watch a TV broadcasting a news report on a news conference held by Lee Man-hee, founder of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony, in Seoul, South Korea, March 2, 2020

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Lee Man-hee leads a church group with over 230,000 members

South Korea has arrested the chief of a spiritual sect linked to the nation’s largest coronavirus outbreak.

Lee Man-hee, 88, heads the Shincheonji Church of Jesus. Greater than 5,000 of its members turned contaminated, making up 36% of all Covid-19 circumstances within the nation.

The authorities accuse him of hiding details about the group’s members and gatherings from contact tracers.

The church says Mr Lee was involved for his members’ privateness, however by no means hid data from the authorities.

South Korea presently has 14,336 coronavirus circumstances, and 300 deaths.

Mr Lee was arrested early on Saturday, following an investigation. A decide mentioned there have been indicators that proof associated to the case was being destroyed.

Mr Lee can also be accused of embezzling 5.6bn gained ($4.7m; £3.6m) and holding unapproved spiritual occasions.

In an announcement, the Shincheonji Church mentioned Mr Lee had been involved about “extreme requests” for private particulars of members, however by no means tried to hinder the investigation.

“The court docket’s issuance of an arrest warrant doesn’t suggest a responsible verdict,” it added. “All attainable efforts might be made to unveil the reality within the upcoming court docket trials.”

Who’s Lee Man-hee?

Lee Man-hee says he’s the incarnation of Jesus Christ’s second coming, and identifies as “the promised pastor” talked about within the Bible.

He based the Shincheonji Church in 1984. In Korean, Shincheonji means “new heaven and earth”.

The group, which has 230,000 members, is taken into account a cult by many. Mr Lee’s followers consider he’ll take 144,000 individuals to heaven with him.

The church says it has greater than 20,000 followers exterior of South Korea together with in China, Japan and areas of Southeast Asia.

The group is thought for packing its followers tightly collectively throughout providers. Glasses, necklaces and earrings are reportedly banned from providers.

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Media caption‘We’re typically persecuted’: Spokesman for virus-hit S Korean church defends secrecy (March 2020)

Members of the perimeter Christian group are believed to have contaminated each other after which travelled across the nation, apparently undetected, in February.

In March, Mr Lee apologised for the virus’s unfold.

“Though it was not intentional, many individuals have been contaminated,” he mentioned on the time. “We put our utmost efforts, however had been unable to stop all of it.”

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