A South Korean pastor has been arrested after stranding 400 of her congregants in Fiji and subjecting them to violent and brutal rituals.
Shin Ok-ju of the Grace Road Church was arrested along with three other church leaders when they landed at Incheon airport just outside the South Korean capital Seoul.
Her followers traveled to Fiji starting in 2014 after she predicted there would be a famine across the Korean peninsula.
But once they arrived, their passports were confiscated and a group personally selected by Shin known as “guardians” prevented the worshipers from leaving.
While they were in Fiji they performed ritual beating on each other, which Shin said was done to avoid punishment from God.
A father was forced to hit his son over 100 times and another congregant was beaten so badly during the “threshing ground” ritual he had lasting brain damage, according to local Christian media outlets.
Eventually, at least five people were able to escape and contacted South Korean authorities.
Christian inspired cults have attracted significant followings in Korea, where about 28% of the population identifies as either Catholic or Protestant. The leader of one group who claimed he was the messiah was jailed for rape, while female congregants were encouraged to have sex with him to attain “purification”.
Church leaders in the UK warned their parishes in 2016 that South Korean cults were attempting to infiltrate their congregations.
This is not the first time Shin has been in trouble with the law. She was sued for $6m in 2014 in Brooklyn by a 27-year-old mentally ill man after Shin tried to cure his schizophrenia with prayer.
He was bound with duct tape during the ritual and ultimately had to have his leg amputated. His condition worsened as a result and he had to live in a nursing home, the New York Daily News reported at the time.
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