Korean TV airs controversial documentary

BBC News/May 12, 1999

A South Korean television station has managed to broadcast a programme previously forced off air by members of a Christian sect.

Seoul-based Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) went ahead with the documentary - which examined claims that sect leader Lee Jae-rok could cure illness - a day after demonstrators stormed the studios and forced it off air.

Riot police were out in force as the programme went out on Wednesday to prevent further trouble.

Mr Lee heads the 65,000-strong Manmin Chungang Sungkyol sect, a Protestant denomination whose name roughly translates as All Holiness Church.

His sect believe that he can cure people by touching them, and is accusing the programme of distorting facts and defaming its image.

The organisation was thrown out of the Christian Council of Korea last month in a row over "heretical" claims.

Sit-down protest

Approximately 300 followers invaded the television station on Tuesday evening, cutting power supplies five minutes after the hour-long documentary had started.

MBC officials estimated 50 protesters had overpowered security guards and broken into the control room where they cut the power. The picture was restored, but lost again on three further occasions.

An MBC spokesman said: "The programme was interrupted just five minutes after it began. We had to broadcast other programmes instead."

Others attacked the producer of the programme, which is entitled PD-Notepad, and then held a sit-in in the lobby. Another 1,500 supporters blocked a neighbouring street with a sit-down protest.

At least 600 South Korean riot police were mobilised to end the occupation.


Six people were arrested during the incident, which is understood to have ended without injuries. Investigators are reportedly seeking to question church leaders in relation to the incident, although it is not thought that Mr Lee is wanted.

The sect had earlier reportedly obtained a court order preventing MBC from screening a story about Mr Lee's sex life. 

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