Korean Cults: Shincheonji

Guest

Lucas E.

Lucas tells us how he was targeted for a year by the Shincheonji cult. How coordinated are they in their recruitment tactics?

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Notes

  • Characteristics of Cults – Keep in mind that you can say most any religion exhibits some of these, but cults do each one of these to the extreme.
    NOTE: Compare to the Moonies, North Korea, and Samsung
    • Extreme zealousness towards leader
    • Dissent is punished
    • Mind-numbing practices to the extreme (speaking in tongues, chanting, excessive work routines)
      • Kneeling stiffly straight with heads bowed while listening to lectures
    • Leadership dictates all details of members’ lives
    • Elitism – Leader is a Messiah
      • Lee is Jesus
    • Us vs. Them mentality
    • Leader is above authority and the law
    • Glorious ends justify all means
    • Leadership uses peer pressure to induce shame for control
    • Cut ties to family and friends and radically alter personal goals
    • Preoccupied with getting new members
    • Preoccupied with making money
    • Members devote excessive time
    • True believers believe there is no life outside the group
  • Shincheonji Church of Jesus, the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony
    • Founded March 14, 1984 by Lee Man-hee

  • Lee Man-hee (b. 1931)
    • (1967) Member of Tabernacle Temple
      • Chun Doo-hwan’s “religious purification policy” 
      • Moved to Presbyterian
      • (1971) Left
    • Olive Tree
      • Removed from his biography
      • Started by Park Tae Son (1956) after he was expelled from the Presbyterian church for starting a schismatic organization – Jesus Christ Congregation Revival Association of Korea (한국예수교전도관부흥협회)
        • Faith healer
        • Gave special 안찰 healing massages
        • Followers would drink the water he’d washed his feet in 
        • Claimed he was one of the two witnesses mentioned in Revelation, called Olive Trees
      • Became one of the largest cults in Korea in the 1960s with over 2 million members
      • Had good relations with Syngman Rhee
      • Built three communal villages
      • Accusal – Women had sex with him to attain purity (sexual healing?)
      • Arrested a lot
      • (Dec 1960) 2,000 members attacked The Dong-a Ilbo for calling him a fraud
      • Sparked Korea’s first anti-cult movement
      • (1980) Changed message
        • 95% Bible is wrong
        • Park was the real Messiah and the real God
        • The God in the Bible was really a king devil
        • Claimed he would never die
      • (1990) Died.
      • Still continues under the name The Church of the Heavenly Father 천부교
      • Some members formed the cults Victory Altar and Shincheonji soon after his change in 1980
    • Started in March 1984 in Anyang. Moved to Gwacheon.
    • Divided into 12 tribes and 24 departments
    • “PD Notebook” aired a piece on them in 2007, but they generally were under the media radar until right before COVID-19
      • Gaining attention on YouTube, more active recruitment and rallies
  • Recruitment
    First off, have a puke at this promotional video
  • System
    • First target friends and family
      • Don’t mention Shincheonji. Just build negative feelings about the targets’ current churches – conspiracy transmission
  • “Harvesters” focusing on universities
    • Students have more free time and are away from their parents (read: vulnerable)
    • Take over clubs and study groups, Kakao chat rooms (# region & hobbies)–ID harvesting
    • Even hagwon teachers try to recruit individual vulnerable students
    • Interfere with their studies
      • Ex: “There is a special event at the same time as your exam. Wisely choose which one God will like.”
    • High percentage drop out of university
  • Infiltrate other churches, including Myeong-dong Cathedral
    • Disguise as regular church members
    • Sow discord with the pastor and recruit the lost sheep into Shincheonji
    • “Conquest of Canaan” or “Mountain Moving”
  • Female membership is high at 3:7
    • White top, black bottoms (“monami look”)
  • Bully their members. Described as gangsterism.
  • Street surveys and psychological tests
    • Including those boards where they ask people to put stickers to show their positions on topics
    • Or psych test asking to draw a tree or some other drawing with instructions (based on Baum Test and HTP Test)
    • Dating survey and tests on “spiritual intelligence”
    • They use these to harvest personal info
    • Use logos of unaffiliated universities and institutions
    • “Spoofing” – Lying that is justified 
  • Grade recruits based on how much money they have
  • Will sometimes use intros like “I’m in a university film club. Can you help me come up with a topic?”
    • After getting contact info and engaging a bit (like coffee), they are referred to a “mentor” to get psychological counseling in the Word Room
  • Recruitment→ Word Room (Vision School)→ Completion of Theological Seminary (7 months)
    • Basically, anything that requires someone’s dedication for seven months is Shincheonji
    • Interviewed after Word Room for heresy
      • If you fail, they cut ties–after demanding money for textbook copies
    • 4 hours/day Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday
      • 2 absences→ expulsion
    • Do work
  • Outposts
    • Bible Academy near Chungmuro Station
    • Vision Room in Soongshil University
  • Fundraising
    • Lots of tithes, and they are given in envelopes with their established member number on them
  • Doctrine
    • Apocalyptic / Doomsday
      • Day of Judgment – 144,000 believers will go to Heaven
    • Messianic
      • Lee is self-proclaimed 
        • “Chairman Lee”, “The Promised Pastor”, “The one who overcomes”, “The Advocate”
      • Believe he is Jesus
      • Only Lee can interpret the Book of Revelation
    • Multi-level marketing style of organization
      • Pressure to attend events and do chores to ascend the hierarchy
    • Lee Man-hee will never die

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