Lawsuit alleges Clairemont martial arts group is a cult

KFMB 760 AM News, San Diego/April 19, 2010

San Diego, California - A local martial arts group is being accused of using intimidation and coercion to rip off students. One local student has filed a lawsuit, alleging she lost thousands of dollars to the organization.

It's called Oom Yung Doe, a martial arts school on Balboa Avenue in Clairemont. The school is covered with photographs of its spiritual leader, John C. Kim. One former student is now suing the school's associates and instructors.

"I thought they were people with integrity. They claim to be, that's how they present themselves," Vivien Francis said.

Francis believes she was intimidated and even brainwashed into giving the Oom Yung Doe organization $47,000.

"They promised me they were going to revise the ownership of the school and make me part owner of the school," she said.

In her lawsuit, Francis accuses Oom Yung Doe of being a cult-like organization run with an iron fist by the school's grandmaster John C. Kim. What most people don't know is that the school's grandmaster is also an ex-con.

Back in the mid-90s, John C. Kim and several other defendants were found guilty in Chicago of conspiracy to commit tax fraud. Kim was accused of skimming millions of dollars in profits from his national network of martial arts schools.

Attorney Evelyn Deaton filed the lawsuit in San Diego court against Kim, Thomas White and Robert Sawinski.

Court records show all three served prison time from that earlier case in Chicago. The three defendants now live in San Diego.

Also named in the suit is a company in Rose Canyon called Jadience. The firm sells herbal creams, lotions and spa treatments over the internet. Deaton believes the defendants are all involved in the Oom Yung Doe martial arts organization.

"I believe it's a cult because they use intimidation and abuse of power to get money from individuals and to control them," Deaton said.

In her lawsuit, Francis says the school's leaders tried to control who she dated, and she alleges sexual harassment by one of the instructors.

"I felt very uncomfortable. I felt he was harassing me. He is an older man. I had no interest in him," Francis said.

All three defendants in the lawsuit declined to speak with News 8. We found no one home at Thomas White's house in University City, and even though there were vehicles in the driveway, nobody answered the door at John Kim's home in La Jolla.

In a written statement to News 8, John Kim's attorney said the lawsuit has no merit. The statement goes on to say, "(Mr. Kim) met Ms. Francis on only two or three brief occasions in group gatherings. Mr. Kim believes that he will be vindicated in a court of justice once all the evidence and facts are revealed."

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