Pastor Lee Jaerock, a South Korean cult leader, is set to spend fifteen years behind bars after being convicted to multiple rapes of eight female followers – some of whom believed he was God.
According to press reports, Lee set up the Manmin Central Church in Guro, once a poor area of Seoul, with just 12 followers in 1982.
The church later grew to over 130,000 members, with a spotlight-filled auditorium, sprawling headquarters, and a website replete with claims of miracle cures.
Pastor Lee Jaerock’s victims were “unable to resist as they were subject to the accused’s absolute religious authority”, judge Chung Moon-Sung reportedly told the Seoul Central District Court.
Lee’s behavior came to public attention after three of his followers turned the spotlight on him as South Korea also got caught up in the #MeToo movement.
The women described how Lee had summoned each of them to an apartment and raped them.
“I was unable to turn him down,” one of the victims reportedly 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 reportedly told the media outlet.
Eight women laid criminal complaints, and the court found Lee raped and molested them “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, stood with his eyes closed as the judgment was read, showing no emotion, while around 100 followers filled the courtroom to overflowing, some of them sighing quietly.
Nigel Belle, Readers Bureau, Fellow
Edited by Jesus Chan
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