Korean Cult Leader Faces Probe After Member Spreads Covid-19

Lee Man-hee

The leader of a controversial cult at the centre of South Korea’s coronavirus outbreak has apologised after one of its members infected many others.

The country now has more than 4,300 cases, the biggest outbreak outside mainland China.

Prosecutors are now being asked to consider a murder investigation over allegations Lee Man-hee’s organisation refused to co-operate with efforts to stop the disease.

The Seoul City government said it had filed a legal complaint to prosecutors against 12 leaders of Shincheonji Church of Jesus — including its founder, Lee Man-hee — accusing them of homicide, causing harm and violating the Infectious Disease and Control Act.

The outbreak among Shincheonji members began with a 61-year-old woman, who developed a fever on February 10 but attended at least four church services in Daegu — the country’s fourth-largest city and epicentre of its outbreak — before being diagnosed.

The organisation has apologised on behalf of its members who have not answered survey calls but has insisted that it has been fully cooperating with the government to contain the virus.

Shincheonji, founded in 1984, proclaims Lee has donned the mantle of Jesus Christ and will take 144,000 people with him to heaven on the day of judgement.