South Korean cult leader convicted of multiple rape
SEOUL: A South Korean cult leader was convicted yesterday of the multiple rape of eight female followers and jailed for 15 years.
Pastor Lee Jae-rock's victims were "unable to resist, as they were subject to the accused's absolute religious authority", judge Chung Moon Sung told the Seoul Central District Court.
Lee set up the Manmin Central Church in Guro, once a poor area of Seoul, with just 12 followers in 1982. It has grown to 130,000 members, with an auditorium, sprawling headquarters, and a website replete with claims of miracle cures.
But three of Lee's followers went public earlier this year, as South Korea was swept with a wave of #MeToo accusations, describing how he had summoned each of them to an apartment and raped them.
"I was unable to turn him down," one of them told South Korean television.
"He was more than a king. He was God," added the woman, who had been a church member since childhood.
Lee told another that she was now in Heaven, and to strip as Adam and Eve went naked in the Garden of Eden.
"I cried, as I hated to do it," she told JTBC television.
The court found Lee raped and molested eight women "tens of times" over a long period.
"Through his sermons, the accused has indirectly or directly suggested he is the holy spirit, deifying himself," the judge said.
The victims believed him to be "a divine being who wields divine power", he added.
Lee, who denied the charges, showed no emotion as the judgment was read.
The 75-year-old's lawyers had accused the women of lying to seek vengeance after being excommunicated for breaching church rules.
But former congregants denounced Lee outside.
"The Manmin Central Church is all about worshipping the pastor Lee Jae-rock," said Ms Kim Yu-sun, who was a member for 20 years.
"Now that I go to a different church, I worship Jesus and pray to God," she added. "I'm happy and I like it." - AFP