Cult founder jailed in South Korea for abuses

Expel the Grace Road Church from Fiji, victim says
Cult founder jailed in South Korea for abuses

Shin Ok-ju, the founder of the Grace Road Church, has been sentenced to six years in jail, after being convicted in South Korea of child abuse, false imprisonment and assault. (Photo from ABC News/YouTube)  

A Korean woman has called on the government of the Pacific islands nation of Fiji to expel a religious cult following the sentencing of its leader in Korea to six years in prison for child abuse, false imprisonment and assault.

A court found that Shin Ok-ju was responsible for collective beatings of followers as well as other mistreatment that amounted to torture.

Shin moved with about 400 followers to Fiji in 2014 claiming it would be a safe-haven from a coming global famine.

A whistle-blower named Seo-Yeon Lee last year made a series of allegations to the Australian government-funded national broadcaster, the ABC, about beatings and other malpractices within the cult.

She told of having escaped from a church compound in 2014, leaving behind her mother and 11 other members of her extended family.

Lee now says that despite Shin being convicted and imprisoned in South Korea, many Korean followers in Fiji remain loyal to her.

"They are still in denial, a lot of their supporters there," Lee has told the ABC.

"They were angry about the verdict obviously, and they were telling people that we are all liars and not to listen to us, the victims."

Lee wants the Fijian government to order the group out of the country.

"I hope the Fijian government opens their eyes to see what she has done, and what kind of organization this really is," she said.

"It's not an innocent church, it's not an innocent farm or a company — they are ruining a lot of people's lives."

In 2017, the Grace Road Church was given a business award for a rice farming venture by the Fiji Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, and it also runs restaurants and other businesses.

A documentary about the cult that aired on South Korean television last year included video footage of Shin participating in the violent treatment of church members.

In a statement, the Fijian government has said it is aware of Shin's sentencing and that joint investigations by Fijian and South Korean authorities into the church's activities are continuing.

For more see this ABC News video report from earlier this year below.

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