International Scholars Publish New White Paper on campaign in South Korea to pin blame on Shincheonji Church

Researchers from European-based organizations the Center for Studies on New Religions and Human Rights Without Frontiers have released a second white paper explaining a campaign in South Korea to pin blame for the nation’s Covid-19 outbreak on a church.

The authors, which include Italian sociologist of religions Massimo Introvigne and Belgian academic Willy Fautré, published a first white paper in March to shed light on the unfair accusations made against Shincheonji, Church of Jesus. After South Korean authorities escalated measures to keep the church closed authors found a second piece of research needed to be published to expose “what can be described, without exaggeration, as an attempt to suppress a religion,” they said in the paper.

Shincheonji’s premises have been closed, its leaders arrested and its members publicly shamed, with some losing their jobs and others being refused medical treatment, after rumors circulated that through one of its congregants, so-called “Patient 31”, the church deliberately spread the coronavirus.

The government’s harsh treatment of Shincheonji is inconsistent with the more lenient rebuke faced by other churches in the country where members were infected with the coronavirus, and is in fact not about disease control. Rather it is part of “a decade-long attempt to destroy Shincheonji, and the fruit of an unholy alliance between fundamentalist and conservative Protestants and politicians who need their votes,” the authors said.

Other findings by the researchers include:

  • “South Korean authorities exceeded the limits of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They collected data about Shincheonji members that were not needed to prevent the pandemic, including members abroad who had never visited South Korea. They were unable or unwilling to prevent the leaking of some of these data to the media and others hostile to Shincheonji, with the result that human rights of the members were violated.”
  • “They discriminated against Shincheonji members, by singling them out as scapegoats for the epidemic, and adopting measures that were not adopted for members of other churches.”
  • “They used COVID-19 as an opportunity to settle old scores with Shincheonji, dissolving its legal corporations (and even HWPL, which is not part of the religious movement), closing its places of worship, and ordering the group to raze its buildings at the headquarters. Local politicians sued Shincheonji for exorbitant sums calculated to bankrupt the movement.”

For a copy of the full report visit: https://www.cesnur.org/2020/shincheonji-second-white-paper.htm

About the authors:

  • Massimo Introvigne is an Italian sociologist of religions. He is the founder and managing director of the Center for Studies on New Religions
  • Willy Fautré, former chargé de mission at the Cabinet of the Belgian Ministry of Education and at the Belgian Parliament, is the director of Human Rights Without Frontiers, an NGO based in Brussels that he founded in 1988
  • Rosita Šorytė joined in 1992 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, and worked for 25 years as a diplomat, inter alia at the UNESCO in Paris and the United Nations in New York
  • Alessandro Amicarelli is a member and director of Obaseki Solicitors Law Firm in London. He is a solicitor of the Senior Courts of England and Wales, and a barrister of Italy, specializing in International and Human Rights Law and Immigration and Refugee Law
  • Marco Respinti is an Italian professional journalist, essayist, translator, and lecturer.