A rundown of cults active on Korean campuses

March 28th, 2014 · Education and ESL, Society · 0 comments

Reader Peter Daley requested a translation of this article warning of the three cults that put the most effort into recruiting Korean university students.

A minister at the undergraduate division of a large church in Seoul had a dilemma. Was it possible to hold an effective undergraduate lecture on the subject of cults? It would be like a vaccination against cults. Just one lecture could have a big effect. Students who simply attend an anti-cult lecture would be that much more vigilant against them.

On the other hand, it is not easy to return after falling under the sway of a cult. Coming out to discussions on cults would mean having to endure bone-cutting torment. Simply having the discussion would mean the blossoming of mistrust with one’s family and a breach of credibility between one and one’s family. So, from the beginning it is very important to prevent people from falling in with a cult. 30 minutes on a Sunday would be good. Young and student pastors can obtain very good results just by reading the materials below and showing photos, then offering simple explanations.

Three Cults Easily Heard of On University Campuses

Shincheonji Church of Jesus the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony (Shincheonji, Founded by Lee Man-hui)

Shincheonji was founded on March 14, 1984 by Lee Man-hui (84), who had come from the Evangelism Center of Park Tae-seon. It is the goal of Shincheonji that adherents believe the 84-year old laborer named Lee Man-hui to be the savior of our age and an immortal leader and that the church he founded is the only place to achieve salvation. It may be a fantastical, narrow-minded, closed-off place, but despite this there is a simple reason young people can easily fall in with it.

It is because their way of luring people in is nothing like the widespread prevalence of common-sense ideas about how people are approached by cults. Shincheonji followers disguise themselves in a totally different way from the typical approach and come up to you, so unwary followers of traditional religions wind up being betrayed. They approach these young people with a cultural code that attracts their interest, including doing surveys. They also form a club for Shincheonji followers on campus.

Or, at a blind date one meets a member of the opposite sex who is actually a Shincheonji follower. They could be an older student or mentor who offers help with a problem. They could disguise themselves as a minister or missionary. They could approach as a mindreading minister with direct revelations from God (you must be careful not to fall for a Shincheonji fortunetelling team).

Shincheonji was classified as a cult by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Korea in 1995, being named at the time as a “group that deserves no theologically valuable analysis,” and re-classified as a cult in 2007 by the Presbyterian Church of Korea (Hapdong). It has also been classified as a cult by Korea Evangelical Holiness Church (1999), the Korean Presbyterian Church (1999). the Presbyterian Church of Korea (Koshin) (2005), and the Presbyterian Church of Korea (Daeshin) (2008).

JMS (Jeong Myeong-seok) – Christian Gospel Mission

When one refers to the “Big 3” cults, that usually means Shincheonji, the Salvation Church, and the Ahn Sang-hong Witness Church. But there is a small difference as to the Big 3 to worry about on university campuses. It seems more appropriate to replace the Ahn Sang-hong Witness Church with Jeong Myeong-seok. This is because JMS actively pursues new followers, targeting first-year university students. JMS started as Jeong Myeong-seok (70 years old), who once was a teacher in the Unification Church, and founded the Ae-cheon Church in Namgajwa-dong, Seoul in 1980.

They have expanded their congregations by targeting young adults and university students. They also changed their names frequently, and their past names include World Youth University Students MS Federation, East-West Christian Uniton, and International Christian Union, and now they are called Christian Gospel Mission.

JMS claims that Christ reincarnated in a human body to be born in 1945 in Korea (JMS himself was born in 1945). He also claims that people who read, believe, and follow the book titled “Word of Salvation,” written by JMS, will be saved. He argues that good and evil and depravity are sexual depravity, and the modern day is the ‘Lover’s Era’ among the different ‘eras’ of salvation.

Example of JMS font

Example of JMS font

It helps to distinguish him if you can remember JMS’s unique style of fonts. If there is a building or an organization using the same style of fonts as shown in the above photo, you can assume that building or organization is related to JMS. That is because that very style of fonts is the unique one used by JMS himself. The name of the institution is usually Christian Gospel Mission, and the name of denomination is often Methodist Jesus Church of Korea.

If you attend a Bible study because someone asked; if you see the unusual number of female pastors, usually taller than 168cm, teaching the Bible in the organization; if they hang a picture of Jesus titled ‘Astral Body of Jesus’ in the organization; if they have a headquarters in Weolmyeong-dong in Daejeon and call their leader the ‘governor’; and if that governor happens to have read the Bible more than 2,000 times, you can surely assume they are members of JMS, Christian Gospel Mission.

Recently in JMS, ‘female leadership’ has made a sudden rise. Jeong Jo-eun, a young woman, is called an apostle and she herself preaches. JMS has been classified as an anti-Christian cult by the Presbyterian Church of Korea (Koshin) in its 41st assembly in 1991, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Korea in its 87th assembly in 2002, and the Presbyterian Church of Korea (Hapdong) in its 93rd assembly in 2008.

Salvation Church (Park Ock-Soo Faction) International Youth Fellowship (IYF)

There are three factions in the Salvation Church. They are the Kwon Shin-chan (deceased)-Yoo Byeong-Eon faction, the Lee Yo-han faction, and the Park Ock-soo faction. All of them have been officially classified as cults by the main denominations of Korean churches. These denominations include the Presbyterian Church of Korea (Hapdong) (2008/93rd assembly/cult), the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (1992/77th assembly/cult), the Presbyterian Church of Korea (Koshin) (1991/41st assembly/cult), the Korea Evangelical Holiness Church (1985, 40th assembly/false religion cult) and so forth.

And Park Ock-soo has stirred controversy as he preached on July 7, 2009, thatf “I can live as a little Jesus and every single one of you are Jesus as well”. This is problematic because he is not saying that he is a ‘little Jesus’ as he follows Jesus, but rather that one actually becomes a little Jesus when he accepts Jesus in his heart, which seems to be deification theology.

Young university students must be extra cautious as IYF seeks both believers in Christianity and non-Christians usingvarious social and cultural approaches including English Speaking Competitions, Invited Lectures of Celebrities, International Volunteering (Good News Co), Return Conferences, Global Camps, Culture (International Culture Exhibition), musicals, local volunteering, concerts, and photo/drawing exhibitions.

You should also be cautious when you encounter △an organization that promotes dropping out of school and running away from home by extremely emphasizing the end of the world△an exclusive mission organization that prohibits attending local churches and considers only themselves as the disciples of Christ △university campus Bible lectures by pastors whose denomination or theology cannot be seen as transparent and sound △unverified sermons found in Internet sources including YouTube. This is for the same reason you do not want to try unsanitary food out of curiosity or try drugs by mistake.

Jin Yong-sik, President of Korea Christian Cult Counseling Center Institute expressed his view that an organization can be considered as a cult or a problematic religious organization if it teaches below concepts. Below is the list of concepts taught by cults.

Figurative Bible
Rather than analyzing by reading the context and the flow of sentences in the Bible, the cults argue that Bible must be read as a figurative speech, and mix and match specific passages from both Testaments.

Secretive Teaching
Gospel is nothing to be ashamed of or hidden, but the cults teach the Bible and tell you that you should not talk about this to your pastors and parents.

Different Saviors for Different Eras
Although Jesus is the Savior of all, past, present, and forever, the cults do not teach that but rather claim that there are different saviors for different eras, arguing that Noah, Moses, and Abraham were saviors, Jesus was the Savior in the New Testament era, but now we are to believe in a different savior in the end of the world.

Scriptures Other than the Bible
The Bible is the one and only Word of God, but the cults call the Bible out of date, bring their own new book and call it the truth of the new era.

Extreme Criticisms of the Church
When a church suffers a wound, they should help by praying and suffering together, but the cults rather emphasize and criticize the fallen state of the church, calling it a hypocritical religious organization. It sounds as if they are saying that the church has lost the truth and one should follow a new way of truth and salvation. They attack pastors of traditional churches as Pharisees and false shepherds.

Eschatology with Timing
The Bible clearly spoke of the day and time of Jesus’ coming, but the cults emphasize the exact date of the end and the Advent, and force blind obedience. Also, they lie with the idea of a conditional end of the world, saying the quota of 144,000 believers will be reached within 2-3 years for example.

Argument that the ‘East’ refers to Korea
The ‘East’ in the Bible refers to the Palestine region, which is east of Israel, but the cults interpret it as Korea and pose an unreasonable logic by matching the scriptures with specific places or incidents of specific organizations in Korea.

Direct Revelations
The cults exaggerate that their leaders have direct revelations from God, and the new revelations are the first in the 2,000 years since Jesus. And they claim that their leader has heard the voice of God, and they stir fear in people that they will be cursed if they do not listen to their leader.

Extreme Exclusiveness
The cults claim that there is no salvation in any other churches, and that their organization is the only one with salvation, denying salvation and truth by existing traditional churches.