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Young Korean Woman Dies During Forced Religious Conversion

On 29 December 2017 a woman in her twenties, who had been lobbying for the eradication of coercive conversion and the punishment of the conversion pastors who incite it, was killed while she was being held captive at a secluded recreational lodge in Hwasun, Jeonnam, South Korea. Her parents are believed to be responsible.

The deceased had experienced coercive conversion once before at the hands of a conversion pastor in 2016. She had been abducted, held captive, and made subject to a coercive conversion programme for 44 days. After her escape, she began to lobby for the enforcement of “freedom of religion” mandated by the South Korean Constitution. She persisted with this cause up to the moment of her death.

The woman wrote to the Korean President in June last year, asking for the “closure of the Korean Cult Counseling Center, enforcing legal punishment of conversion pastors, and lobbying for the enactment of a law to ban religious discrimi- nation.” If this letter had been considered seriously by the President and the judicial authorities, the particular incident in question would never have occurred.

The death of the deceased was a result of the typical coercive conversion process: a) the coercive conversion pastor receiving a fee by first inducing fear in the family through allegations such as “your child has fallen into a cult” b) instructing the family to abduct, confine, and restrain the victim; c) proceeding with long-term education by means of slander to alter the victims’ religious preference.

This is the second “religious murder” after the first incident back in 2007, when a woman in her forties was beaten to death by her ex-husband with a hammer because she refused to participate willingly in a conversion programme. This first case, which occurred in Ulsan, South Korea, was also part of the moneymaking schemes of conversion pastors. As a result of the woman's religious preference, fear and anger was planted in the hearts of the family causing them to resort to abduction, confinement, and violence.

Regarding this case, in 2015 a pastor of an established Christian church in South Korea claimed in a certain newspa- per that “he could empathize with the position of the ex-husband who murdered his wife,” revealing the inexcusable view thatpastors take with regards to the conversion business.

Coercive conversion programmes are designed to make the family of the victim responsible for all illegal actions so that the conversion pastors themselves incur no liability. Families are torn apart and destroyed, while pastors, the initiators of the process, get off scot free.

Coercive conversion education is thriving despite Korean citizens being kidnapped, confined, restrained, assaulted, and even killed in flagrant disregard of the law. Things have reached such a head that a prominent pastor in the conversion business, Jin, recommended the practice to other pastors because it is “profitable.”

What is more regrettable is the fact that the police disregarded the missing persons’ report that was filed immediately after the victim was abducted, on the grounds that it was a “religious issue” and a “family issue.” In the meantime, she was killed and the police were unaware of her death.

We hereby appeal to the President and the judicial authorities.The citizens of Korea are being exploited for money and killed by the conversion business. Tens of thousands of people live in fear for their lives because of one reason: their faith. Who gave these pastors the authority to confine, shackle, beat, and murder people for their faith? Their disguise is holy and pious but their actions show that they are willing to commit murder to arbitrarily convert people’s beliefs. The authorities must face reality and take appropriate action against this practice.

We should thoroughly investigate the recent death and reveal the true facts. We should root out the real culprit and cause for destruction of this family. Justice should be served and conversion pastors must be held accountable for their actions. The constant violation of people's universal human right to freedom of religion through abduction, confinement, suffocation and many other forms of physical abuse and violence must come to an end.

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