10 Feb 2009

S.Korea cult leader jailed for 10 years for sex crimes

AsiaOne.com    AFP    February 10, 2009

SEOUL - A South Korean cult leader who told followers to have sex with him to purge their sins was jailed for 10 years on Tuesday.

Jeong Myeong-Seok - whose JMS sect stands for both Jesus Morning Star and his initials - was convicted of raping or sexually assaulting four women between 2001 and 2006.

An appeal court added four years to a lower court's sentence of six years.

"The accused committed serious wrongdoing by taking advantage of his status as a religious leader," the court said in a statement, adding the victims were "hurt severely."

The court was crowded with some 70 of Jeong's followers, some sighing and others shedding tears at the sentence, media reports said.

Jeong, now in his early 60s, fled South Korea in 1999, one day after rape allegations against him were broadcast on national television. He was formally charged in absentia with rape in 2001.

The cult leader was arrested in Hong Kong in 2003 for visa violations but later fled an extradition hearing. China extradited him to Seoul in February last year.

The offences for which Jeong was convicted were committed with followers while he was on the run overseas, but South Korean courts said they had jurisdiction because his victims were Koreans.

Former cult members, mostly young girls, have told police they were instructed to undress for health checks and to have sex with Jeong to expunge their sins.

The girls said they were threatened with spiritual death if they spoke of what happened, according to previous media reports.

News reports have said Jeong, who founded his cult in the late 1980s, was still believed to have thousands of followers. -AFP

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Accused rapist cult leader faces extradition to Korea 

Exposing the abuses and frauds of cults makes advocate a target for regular legal and physical threats


  1. How a South Korean Cult Tried and Failed to Sue This Australian Uni Lecturer

    By John Power, Vice April 19, 2016

    South Korea has more than its fair share of shadowy religious cults, but Jesus Morning Star (JSM), ranks among its more notorious. The sect claims to be a benign religious group that follows the Bible. But former members have described the leader, JeongMyeong-seok, as a self-proclaimed messiah who used claims of divine authority to groom young women. Tellingly, Jeong is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for the rape and sexual assault of five women across several Asian countries.

    Canberra native Peter Daley is a lecturer in South Korea and he's spent the past 13 years tracking the movements of JMS and several other sects at his website jmscult.com. In 2014, Peter was interviewed by SBS' The Feed in a report on how JMS targets university women in Australia to become Jeong's "spiritual brides."

    Unsurprisingly, Peter's unconventional hobby hasn't endeared him to cult members. Recently, several female members tried to have him prosecuted for defamation, which is a criminal offence in South Korea. Peter had posted video footage of them nakedly praising Jeong on his website, even though the footage was heavily pixelated and already available in the public domain. After a seven-month investigation by police and prosecutors, Peter was cleared of all charges last month.

    We asked Peter about his legal travails, how he became the foremost Western expert on Korean cults, and what JMS is up to in Australia.

    VICE: Hi Peter, how did you first get into tracking South Korean cults?

    Peter Daley: I moved to Korea in 2003 and took a job teaching English in a rural town in the mountains. A few months later I discovered it was the closest town to the base of this cult known as JMS. My roommate was a member but when she decided to leave, the group threatened her. They told her God would kill someone in her family and members started following her around town. They were waiting for her at the swimming pool she would swim at twice a week.

    There wasn't much information in English at the time and I became quite fascinated by the organisation—how it operated, how it indoctrinated people. As there wasn't much information in English I started a site. As that was in 2003 it's been growing since then.

    continued below

  2. Tell us more about this cult.

    The videos, I think, provide a really clear window into how they indoctrinate young women, if they're beautiful enough. The videos show naked university students together—there are about four or five of them in one video—naked and dancing around saying "Seonsaengnim, we love you!" Seonsaengnim is the word for teacher.

    There's another video showing a woman licking a photo of the leader and then she holds it up to her vagina. So this is a clear indication that sex has a pretty key role in the deeper levels of the cult.

    What can you tell us about JMS in Australia?

    It's pretty small, but they do have presences in the major cities. The SBS report interviewed two girls who were recruited around the Australian National University campus. At the moment, their main branch is in Melbourne and there has been recruitment at the University of Melbourne. Their goal is to pretty much target tall attractive women, and they rationalise this by telling their members that outward appearance is a sign of inward beauty and a sign that God has chosen them to become part of this.

    Yes, that's creepy. So how did you come to be sued by the cult?

    I think the cult saw me as more of a threat following the SBS report. Between 2014 and last August, I'd get these intermediate threats. Then in August 2015, I got a call from police telling me I was being sued by several members. I was given a document to sign from JMS saying they'd drop the charges if I apologised, closed my website, and never spoke about them again. I just refused immediately. I didn't even have to think about it really, it was just an automatic no.

    Were you scared to turn them down?

    I wouldn't say I was scared, but it weighed heavily on me. Members have committed violence against reporters and critics in the past, so that is always a possibility. I was certainly nervous going to the first police interview, but once it began I relished the opportunity to share my experiences with Korean authorities.

    So what happened?

    The police recommended to prosecutors that the case be dropped. I just received a brief summary of the prosecutor's decision, but I am getting an English translation of the seven-page document soon. Essentially it was ruled that the public interest factor outweighed concerns about sexual content.

    So what did you learn from this experience?

    I learned that my site is having a far greater effect that I could have dreamed of. The fact they went to so much effort to silence me, I think, speaks volumes.

    Do you plan to continue this work?

    Yes, absolutely. First, I find the topic endlessly fascinating and second, I know my efforts have helped people and, to some extent, hindered the activities of what are essentially criminal organisations. That's a good feeling.


  3. Inside the sinister Hitler-loving Korean sex cult luring young Australian girls into being 'spiritual brides' for a serial rapist

    Jesus Morning Star is a South Korean cult founded by Jung Myung-seok
    · The group is believed to have spread to Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra
    · They lure new members through front groups such as modelling classes
    · Members say they were recruited in universities and shopping centres
    · They say group enforces sleep deprivation and severing of ties with family
    · Female members are told they will be purified by having sex with Jung
    · One member flew to Seoul to visit Jung where he is imprisoned for rape
    · Hundreds of women claim to have been sexually assaulted by the leader


    A notorious cult which allegedly brainwashes young women into having sex with a serial rapist is luring potential members in major cities across Australia.

    South Korean group Jesus Morning Star (JMS) - who praise Hitler and preach members will be purified by having sex with their leader - are believed to be recruiting in shopping centres and universities in Canberra, Sydney, and Melbourne.

    The quasi-Christian sect was founded in 1980 by Jung Myung-seok (JMS), who is serving a 10-year-prison sentence in Seoul for raping and molesting his followers. He is due to walk free in 2017.

    The highly secretive group, also known as Providence, is believed to have spread to Australia through a number of front organisations, including fashion modelling classes and bible studies.

    Members say they are groomed into following a 'doctrine' which enforces sleep deprivation and encourages severing ties with family in order to be 'spiritual brides' for Jung.

    Former followers have told Daily Mail Australia of the devastating impact the cult had on their lives and said they were left psychologically and emotionally scarred after leaving.

    Elizabeth, who chose not to give her full name for fear of reprisal, was a member of the JMS's Canberra fraction for 18 months.

    'I was shopping inside the Canberra Centre in April 2011. A Korean woman came over and said she was holding a Christian art show. It looked good so I thought I would check it out.'

    After meeting the group's local leader she moved in with them later that year and was subjected to the indoctrination process, which includes sleep deprivation and a restricted diet.

    'We had to wake up at 3am everyday to pray because they said this brought us closer to god. It's a mind control technique: when you're deprived of sleep you can't critically think.'

    Teachings centered on the 'Messianic' leader Jung, who was depicted as a living Deity who had been falsely accused and persecuted like Jesus Christ.

    'They encouraged us to write letters to him like he was our lover. He wrote sexually explicit replies saying things like 'your white skin arouses me,' or 'your vagina would look pretty.'

    continued below

  4. The group then asked her to fly to Seoul to visit him in Daejon prison, where he was locked up in 2009 on charges of rape and molestation after several years as a fugitive.

    'I spent 15 minutes with him and three other members. He blew kisses at us and knew all our names and how we looked from photos in his cell. It was very surreal.'

    Elizabeth said she was told to recruit members by telling them 'you look pretty, have you thought of being a model?,' before inviting them to front fashion classes.

    After months of sleep deprivation and regulated eating, she was hospitalised with an eating disorder in 2012.

    'It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because when I got out I moved back in with my parents, who organised an exit counselor to speak with me.'

    'It was a devastating realisation to learn the truth. I was left mentally and physically broken.'

    Members of the Canberra faction are understood to have moved to Melbourne following scrutiny into their controversial practices.

    Another woman, who wished not be named, said she was recruited in early 2014 inside University of Melbourne, where the group is believed to still be actively recruiting.

    'They asked me to fill out a survey about the class we were in. It seemed friendly enough, so I agreed to meet for one of their classes.'

    After attending one of bible studies she was initially struck by some of their bizarre teachings - such as a holy reading of Adolf Hitler.

    'Part of the teachings explored the idea of God's punishment. They said the holocaust was his mark of atonement because Jewish people killed Jesus. They told us Hitler was a vessel from god.'

    She said girls were pressured to dress up for Jung and refrain from talking to the opposite sex so as to be 'spiritual brides' for him.

    'I started recruiting for more members. I was told to look for virgins, and encouraged new members to wear white as much as possible to show Jung their purity.'

    Eventually her parents staged an intervention, and she was deprogrammed by a cult expert. But for some families, the warning signs come too late.

    One father said his daughter was recruited in Sydney Uni, and after being brainwashed by the group she was ordered to move to Western Australia.

    'I only learned she had moved there when I saw her on one of their sites. It took a long time to pieces together the reality she had been told to move by the group.

    Since his daughter was over 18 he could not seek the help of police to help track her down.

    'I'm powerless to find her. I get a generic email from her every couple of months but aside from that we have no contact.'

    continued below

  5. He says he believes JMS still recruits at Sydney Uni and Broadway Shopping centre through a different front organisations.

    Peter Daley, a Canberra born University lecturer who now lives in South Korea, has spent over a decade researching JMS and writing about them online in the hope of raising awareness.

    'JMS is dangerous beyond assaults from the leader. The sleep deprivation and the stress caused when members cut ties with their family is incredibly damaging to members health.'

    'And he is due out next year with no signs of rehabilitation. The numbers of girls that have visited him in jail suggest he is not going to change his ways any time soon.'

    He said universities should be doing more to educate about the dangers of the group given they are known to target campuses.

    'I think they have a duty of care to educate students about the dangers of the group. Many former members were recruited on their university campus'.'

    A University of Melbourne spokesperson said they were not aware of the group but advised students who are involved to contact their Safer Community Program.

    'We have an industry-leading Safer Community Program, and we have been very active in raising awareness of the program, and the support the University can offer students who experience situations like this.'

    A spokesperson for Sydney University also denied being aware of the group but urged students to report groups misrepresenting their activities.

    'Any behaviour by individuals or groups on campus misrepresenting themselves or their activities to students should be reported to Campus Security so that appropriate action can be taken.'

    Daily Mail Australia has also contacted a spokesperson for Jesus Morning Star for comment.

    · Founded in 1980 by Jung Myung-seok
    · Started in South Korea and spread across Asia
    · Followers identify Jung as the Second Coming of Christ
    · Female members told they will be purified by having sex with Seok
    · Hundreds of women have claimed they were raped or sexually abused by Jung
    · Group is highly secretive in nature
    · Has a history of violence against critics
    · Recruits members through front groups like modelling classes
    · Reports of 240 branches in South Korea alone

    · Active in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra
    · Have several front groups to lure members
    · Recruit in major universities including Sydney Uni and Melbourne Uni
    · Praise Adolf Hitler in their teachings
    · Enforce sleep deprivation and restricted diets on members
    · Encourage them to sever ties with family
    · Tell them to dress up for Jung and refrain from talking to the opposite sex
    · Encouraged to recruit virgins into the group
    · Arrange for members to fly to South Korea to visit Jungin jail
    · Unclear how many members there are