Doomsday cult leader arrested

BBC News, 25 January, 2000

The leader of a South Korean doomsday cult has been arrested after allegations that he swindled nearly $90m from his followers by promising them eternal life.

The man, Mo Haeng-Ryong, is said to have told them that the world would end on 19 February, but that they would be spared if they donated money to build a shrine where they would be able to strengthen their own mystical energy. Prosecutors arrested Mr Mo, 66, and his wife as he was preparing to leave the country. The police are looking for at least 10 other people.

Heaven's Gathering

Known as Chun Jon Hoe - Heaven's Gathering - the cult was based in Hongchun, 200km north-east of the capital, Seoul.

A BBC correspondent in Seoul, Andrew Wood, says South Korea is fertile ground for religions new and old. It is the most Christian country on the mainland of East Asia, with hundreds of new sects. It is also well known as home of the Unification Church, whose followers are often nicknamed Moonies, after the church's founder the Reverend Moon. Some experts say there were up to 70 self- proclaimed Messiahs operating in South Korea in the 1960s.

The authorities say that the Chun Jon Hoe movement has 100,000-150,000 members. It is said to incorporate traditional shamanistic thinking with Confucion elements.

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