July 09, 2000 20:30
Prosecutors announced Sunday that they have arrested forty-two members of a doomsday cult called Cheonjonhoe, including its highly deified husband and wife leadership. They said that the group is suspected of at least W38 billion worth of loan frauds, noting also that this could be a new record high for Korean religious scandals. Prosecutors are looking for an additional 113 members of the organization, and say they eventually expect to find somewhere around W100 billion in additional fraud maneuvered through 2,432 loans from some 5,000 banks nationwide.
Cheonjonhoe's membership stands at around 1,500 believers, including middle-ranking officials at national government agencies, lawyers, doctors of Oriental medicine, soldiers, teachers, and other professions that are at an advantage when seeking loans. Unlike most doomsday cults, it had achieved enough legitimacy to be registered with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism as a religious organization. The cult's founders, husband and wife team Mo Haeng-ryong and Bak Gwi-dal, first began preaching that they had received a revelation while in the mountains in 1985, and in 1990 began telling believers that the world would come to an end in the year 2000. Once arrested, however, the couple announced through their lawyer, now also under arrest, that the end of the world had been delayed ten years. The organization has a W150 billion temple in Hongcheong, Kangwon Province.
(Lee Myeongjin, firstname.lastname@example.org)
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